WOONSOCKET --- Woonsocket High is back in the Division II playoffs, but before the defending state champions could stamp their return ticket to the postseason on Saturday afternoon, they needed to overcome their worst half of football against a tough opponent in Mount Hope High.
Quarterback Kevin Reyes threw three touchdown passes, including a 43-yarder to Jessie Charette with 2:08 to play in the third quarter that snapped a 14-14 tie, and the Novansâ€™ defense ruled the entire second half in a 34-14 triumph before an energetic Homecoming Day crowd at Barry Field.
The Villa Novans, who are 5-1 in Division II-B play, also sewed up second place in the standings behind unbeaten Tolman High (5-0). St. Raphael Academy (4-2), which beat Toll Gate High on Saturday, has also locked up the No. 3 berth, while Mount Hope and the Titans (both 3-3) will have to wait an extra week to see who claims the final spot.
â€śWe should be looking at a home game in the first round,â€ť noted Woonsocket head coach Carnell Henderson. â€śWeâ€™re happy to be going back (to the state playoffs) and weâ€™re just looking forward to the opportunity to continue to play. We have a great group of kids that enjoy playing football with each other.â€ť
Henderson was far from happy with his Novansâ€™ play in the opening half, which saw the Huskies take advantage of some sloppy play (and four penalties for 50 yards) by the Villa Novans and head into the break knotted at 14-14.
The Huskiesâ€™ two scores came as somewhat of a shock to the Villa Novans and their fans, especially since Woonsocket had surrendered just six points in its first five league games.
â€śThat was our worst half (of the season),â€ť admitted Henderson. â€śThe penalties, the blown assignments, and the turnovers were terrible, and (Mount Hope) took advantage of them. But I think once we got settled in and realized what we needed to do, we were alright.â€ť
The Novans, who allowed just 104 yards of offense in the game, dominated defensively in the final 24 minutes. Not only did they surrender just 41 yards, but they forced Mount Hope to go three-and-out on five of their seven series and didnâ€™t allow the Huskies to get a first down.
The Novans broke on the board 5:02 into the game on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Evans to Charette and the first of four straight extra points by John Poirier, but when they got the ball back a couple of minutes later, they fumbled it back to Mount Hope on their own 35.
Armed with good field position, the Huskies put together a 10-play drive that took five minutes off the clock and resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Tre Jones on the final play of the quarter. Jones then tossed a two-point conversion pass to Ed Botelho to give the Huskies the lead.
The Villa Novans soon came back with their longest drive of the game midway through the second quarter that covered 73 yards on 11 plays and saw Orlan Thomas haul in an eight-yard TD pass from Evans.
But the Huskies again answered right before the end of the quarter. With 10 seconds to play (and right before a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on the Novans), Aaron Booth raced to the right corner of the end zone on a 19-yard carry.
The Novans eventually seized the lead for good on Charetteâ€™s 43-yard touchdown grab, which was almost an interception by Jones, the Huskiesâ€™ strong safety. But just as Jones camped under the pass on the Huskiesâ€™ 20, Charette raced in, pulled the ball away from him, and ran the rest of the way to the end zone untouched.
The Novans put the verdict on ice in the final minutes of the game on 3-yard touchdown runs by Thomas with 4:29 to play and Jalen Evans with 1:49 on the clock.
Evansâ€™ superb afternoon throwing the ball also saw him complete 10 of his 16 passes for 154 yards. The Novans also picked up 134 yards on the ground, with Evans leading the way with 68 yards on 18 handoffs.
Mount Hope 8 6 0 0 -- 14
Woonsocket 7 7 7 13 -- 34
W â€“ Jessie Charette 18 pass from Kevin Reyes (John Poirier kick)
MH â€“ Tre Jones 1 run (Ed Botelho pass from Tre Jones)
W â€“ Orlan Thomas 8 pass from Kevin Reyes (John Poirier kick)
MH â€“ Aaron Booth 19 run (pass failed)
W â€“ Jessie Charette 43 pass from Kevin Reyes (John Poirier kick)
W â€“ Orlan Thomas 3 run (John Poirier kick)
W â€“ Jalen Evans 3 run (kick failed)
First downs 5 11
Rushes-yards 34-91 32-134
Passing 4-13-1 10-16-0
Sacked-yards lost 2-13 2-11
Net passing 2 143
Punts-average 8-26.5 3-32.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 6-48 8-75
RUSHING: MH â€“ Aaron Booth 16-74, Joe San Martin 8-19, Ed Botelho 4-5, Tre Jones 6-(-7). W â€“ Jalen Evans 18-68, Orlan Thomas 8-30, Jessie Charette 4-21, Jarome Robinson 1-15, Kevin Reyes 1-0.
PASSING: MH â€“ Tre Jones 4-12-1-15, Aaron Booth 0-1-0-0. W â€“ Kevin Reyes 10-16-0-154.
RECEIVING: MH â€“ Ed Botelho 2-9, Joe San Martin 2-6. W â€“ Jessie Charette 5-85, Orlan Thomas 3-29, Jarome Robinson 1-30, Geovanni Heredia 1-10.