SCITUATE – An important piece to the Division IV playoff puzzle was settled Thursday morning at wind swept and bitterly cold Caito Field.
Led by three rushing touchdowns from senior Dylan Naradowy, North Smithfield locked up the No. 3 seed in convincing fashion with a 53-20 whitewashing of holiday foe Scituate. Had the Spartans prevailed, they would have pushed the Northmen to the fourth position, which would have resulted in a semifinal-round date with regular-season champion and top-seed North Providence.
Alas, Wes Pennington & Co. did not leave a shred of doubt. Next Tuesday’s “round of four” matchups will feature North Smithfield traveling to No. 2 Exeter/West Greenwich while fourth-seeded Scituate ventures to North Providence.
Pennington wasted little time in turning page and looking ahead at what’s on tap. North Smithfield absorbed a stinging 17-14 defeat against EWG back on Sept. 28, a loss that he made sure to remind his players of prior to getting on the bus.
“We’ve played them a lot in the past, so we’re just looking forward to going down there and playing a good football game on Tuesday night,” said Pennington.
“Good football game” is probably the best way to summarize the way North Smithfield (5-2 Division IV, 5-4 overall) conducted business on Thanksgiving. The visitors led 21-6 after one quarter, 41-14 at halftime and 47-14 after three quarters.
If quarterback Michael Cicerone wasn’t unleashing a long pass down the field, it was Naradowy and Cody DeMarie carving up the Spartans’ defensive line. Speaking of defense, the Northmen received a score from the unit when Nicholas Cabral stepped in front of a pass intended to Scituate’s Miles Maxwell and returned it 30 yards.
Cabral’s interception came in the second quarter and two plays after DeMarie plunged in from one yard out – one play after the junior got loose for a 47-yard scamper. The two scores came 28 seconds apart and sank the Spartans into a 34-6 hole.
Even though the game was well in hand as the second half got underway, the Northmen went out and executed an 11-play, 99-yard drive that featured a heavy emphasis on the ground game. With Naradowy and DeMarie taking turns in gashing the Spartans, the Northmen went from the shadow of their own end zone to collecting six hard-earned points.
Naradowy capped off the lengthy march, one that chewed up seven minutes and one second of game clock, with a 27-yard touchdown. North Smithfield faced a fourth-and-nine deep in Scituate territory when Naradowy made a sharp cut that enabled him to find daylight along the right sideline.
“I told the guys before the game that we need those long, sustaining drives in order keep the momentum and the tempo,” said Pennington. “That’s what you need come playoff time.”
Unofficially, Naradowy finished with 168 rushing yards on 14 handoffs. DeMarie, who took some direct snaps from under center, had 120 yards on nine carries.
“The guys stepped up today. We knew that this was going to be a tough game. It was a playoff atmosphere because (Scituate) had a lot riding on it,” said Pennington. “We came in with our game faces on and we’ll have to do the same thing again on Tuesday night.”