Above, Central Falls quarterback Malik Velasquez scans the field just before the snap during the third quarter.
NORTH SMITHFIELD -- Given the fact that this was a much easier verdict than he ever thought possible, North Smithfield High head coach Wes Pennington replaced his starting backfield with underclassmen Jake Palmer and Devon Deragon.
For the diminutive Palmer, he had the time of his life, both during and after the Northmen celebrated a stunningly simplistic 61-8 Senior Night triumph over Central Falls on Friday night.
Senior quarterback Mike Cicerone completed eight of a dozen aerials for 206 yards and three touchdowns and junior tailback Cody DeMarie hustled for 118 yards and two paydirts on only six handles to pace Penningtonâs crew, which not only improved its Division IV mark to 4-2 (4-4 overall) but also secured a fourth consecutive postseason bid.
Once it was over, while the two squads huddled to head their mentorsâ post-game speech, the lights at the Northmen Athletic Complex suddenly blacked out. Through cell phone lighting, Pennington shouted through the darkness, âCongratulations, playoff team!â and his kids hollered with enthusiasm.
âWe wanted to attack their defense from the start,â Pennington stated afterward. âWe thought we could throw the football on them, the reason being we noticed they blitzed their linebackers a lot. We figured that if we could get the ball off, weâd have three receiving options open downfield.â
Thatâs just what happened, though the Northmen did take advantage of four interceptions from senior signal caller Malik Velasquez, all in the opening half. In the end, senior receiver Peter Keenan hauled in four tosses for 115 yards and two scores and classmate Matt Lachance three more for 74 and another TD.
Keenanâs brother, junior tight end Mark, also snagged a pass for a score.
Still, it looked like it would be a battle from the start, as the Warriors (1-7, 1-6) drove 44 yards on 10 plays before North Smithfield forced them to punt from the hostsâ 31. CF regained possession after allowing only one first down on the Northmenâs first possession, but â thanks to a Peter Keenan sack â the Warriors had to punt the pigskin back.
On the very next snap, DeMarie took a handoff from Cicerone and raced 55 yard untouched for the first touchdown. Senior Dylan Narodowy, who chipped in 40 yards on nine carries, booted his first of seven PATS with 2:55 left in the opening period, and that opened the floodgates.
On the third play from scrimmage after that, junior safety Nate Palmer picked off a Velasquez toss and returned it 54 yards to the Warriorsâ 1. Following a five-yard procedure penalty, beefy senior lineman Adam Souza plowed off guard from the 6, though Narodowyâs point-after attempt was blocked by senior Erico Nobre.
Immediately after the ensuing kickoff, CF fumbled the return, and Peter Keenan recovered at the opponentâs 41. Four plays later, on a halfback option pass, Narodowy found the elder Keenan open, and he completed the 56-yard âcatch and runâ with :26.9 ticks left in the quarter.
A mere three snaps after that, after a Nobre 24-yard jaunt and Carlos Hernandezâ 35-yard catch, Velasquez delivered a crisp six-yarder to Elijah Hamerick. Nobreâs blast on the two-point conversion to close the gap to 20-8 on the final play of the quarter.
NS, however, erupted for 27 points in the second, courtesy of DeMarieâs 17-yard spring around right end with 10:06 to go, Mark Keenanâs 17-yard snag from Cicerone with six minutes remaining, and Lachanceâs 19-yard grab from the same with 1:04 left, that after another pick.
Two plays after another kickoff, Narodowy intercepted Velasquez and sprinted it back 35 yards to the Warriorsâ 11. On the very next call, Keenan hauled in Ciceroneâs 11-yard aerial in the back left corner of the end zone to lift the Northmen to a 47-8 cushion at the break.
NS notched another paydirt on Ciceroneâs one-yard sneak following a nine-snap, 74-yard possession on its initial drive of the third before Deragon sealed the verdict with a 15-yard TD hustle off left guard with 3:39 to play.
âWe had a great first drive, but we couldnât push it in; thatâs been the tale of our season,â sighed CF head coach Jeff Lapierre. âWeâll have some great gains, but we just canât finish. Unfortunately, we self-destruct, for whatever reason.
âThe inexperience really showed; weâll do fine from the 20 to the 20, but then something goes wrong,â he added. âWe had two many turnovers (six in all), but the kids all showed a lot of heart here. The score was 47-8 at halftime, but they didnât quit. The guys were still screaming for the offense and defense from the sidelines âŠ We have a ton of underclassmen, and â when these boys get it â who knows what can happen? Iâm proud of them.â
Central Falls 8 0 0 0 -- 8
North Smithfield 20 27 7 7 -- 61
NS â Cody DeMarie 55 run (Dylan Narodowy kick)
NS â Adam Souza 6 run (kick blocked)
NS â Peter Keenan 56 pass from Narodowy (Narodowy kick)
CF â Elijah Hamerick 6 pass from Malik Velasquez (Erico Nobre rush)
NS â DeMarie 17 run (kick failed)
NS â Mark Keenan 17 pass from Mike Cicerone (Narodowy kick)
NS â Matt Lachance 19 pass from Cicerone (Narodowy kick)
NS â Peter Keenan 11 pass from Cicerone (Narodowy kick)
NS â Cicerone 1 run (Narodowy kick)
NS â Devon Deragon 15 run (Narodowy kick)
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