WOONSOCKET â€” The vision, the quickness, the bursts of acceleration â€¦ Woonsocket senior Jalen Evans was the complete package.
More important than any of the other listed attributes, Evans was the picture of perfect health. The fact he was running just as hard in the fourth quarter as he was during the opening stanza proved that he was over the knee ailment that sidelined him last week. Evans just kept on wielding the hammer, running in and around Charihoâ€™s defense in what amounted to a 34-13 runaway performance for Woonsocket on Saturday afternoon at Barry Field.
Evans piled up 104 rushing yards â€“ 71 materializing during a two-touchdown performance in the fourth quarter. The shifty back wound up finding the end zone on four occasions, the most noteworthy â€“ not to mention spectacular â€“ score coming in the third quarter, when Evans fielded a line-drive punt on one bounce and ran 80 yards to daylight; no one in a Chargersâ€™ uniform was in his sightlines after crossing midfield.
â€śHe made a huge play on his own,â€ť said Novans head coach Carnell Henderson about Evansâ€™ runback. â€śHe came up, caught the ball and made one person miss before breaking a tackle and going the distance.
â€śWeâ€™re only to go as far as Jalen takes us,â€ť Henderson continued. â€śThatâ€™s what we expect out of him; he gave us those tough yards at the end of the game.â€ť
The win enabled Woonsocket to remain in the hunt to possibly host a quarterfinal-round contest when the Division II playoffs take place two weekends from now. At 4-2 in II-A, the Villa Novans own the same record as Mt. Hope, though if it comes down to tiebreakers, the advantage goes to the Huskies thanks to the squadâ€™s 26-7 triumph against Woonsocket back on Oct. 6.
Not to look too far ahead, but Mt. Hope faces playoff contender Warwick Vets next Friday night at the Hurricanesâ€™ facility. Woonsocket will remain at home with Coventry serving as Saturdayâ€™s opponent.
â€śI donâ€™t how itâ€™s going to play out, but we want the highest seed as possible,â€ť Henderson stressed.
There was an ebb and flow in Saturdayâ€™s game that saw Chariho and Woonsocket â€“ the last two teams to win the Division II Super Bowl â€“ trade momentum swings before Evans & Co. doused any hope of the Chargers springing what would have been a mild upset. Leading 13-0 late in the first half, Woonsocket was in position to go up three scores as quarterback Brett Bouchard sought his second score on the afternoon.
Instead, Charihoâ€™s Hayden Pryor came up with a diving interception in the end zone, a big play that allowed the Chargers to get out of dodge and enter the second half within relative striking distance.
Receiving the ball to begin the third quarter, Woonsocket coughed up the ball at its own 35-yard line, as Will Andino had the ball stripped. Chariho (1-5, II-A) took full advantage of the short field with Austin McQuaide barreling his way into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1, making it 13-6 Novans. A strong runner who did his best work between the tackles, McQuiade ended up compiling 148 yards on 26 carries.
The third quarter of Woonsocketâ€™s disdain continued with two personal fouls and Pryorâ€™s second pick of the contest. The Novan turnover allowed the visitors to set up at the Chariho 24 with the Chargers needing just four plays to cross midfield. Chariho. Play continued down to the Novan 33 before a couple of holding penalties knocked the Chargers for a loop.
That set the stage for Evansâ€™ electric runback, a most welcome sign for a Novans squad that had to be less than pleased to let their foe hang around.
â€śWe seemed to find ourselves after that,â€ť noted Henderson.
Chariho did manage to shrug off Evansâ€™ score, responding with a seven-play drive that was capped with Pryor hitting Michael Pagliarini on a slant that covered 30 yards and cut Woonsocketâ€™s lead down to 20-13 with 9:40 remaining in the fourth.
From that point, it was all Evans for Woonsocket. He capped off back-to-back drives with a pair of spirited 10-yard scoring jaunts, the first score the result of some nifty blocking on the right side by Kyle Mulvey and Jaston Robinson.
Speaking of Mulvey, the senior amassed 116 receiving yards. Josh Trinidad made a nifty, 12-yard fingertip grab in the left corner of the end zone for Woonsocketâ€™s first score, a sequence that further legitimized the Novansâ€™ potency on offense.
For the first time in quite a while, Woonsocket entered a game with basically a full compliment of healthy players. The lone exception was junior running back Dâ€™Andre Thomas, who is done for the season after injuring his tibia and fibula last weekend against Toll Gate.
â€śI think if weâ€™re healthy, weâ€™re pretty good,â€ť declared Henderson. â€śWe were healthy today and as healthy as youâ€™re going to be at this time of year.â€ť