WEST GREENWICH --- For the fourth straight season, North Smithfield is one and done in the Division IV playoffs.
Senior fullback Dwight Anderson scored three touchdowns and teamed with quarterback Jacob Hornoff to pick up over 180 yards on the ground to guide Exeter/West Greenwich to a 21-13 victory over N.S. on Tuesday night under the glare of portable lights on the Knights’ campus.
The semifinal-round victory allows the second-seeded Knights to head to the Super Bowl, slated for Sunday at 3 p.m. at nearby East Greenwich High, for the fourth time in the last six seasons. They will clash with undefeated North Providence, which beat Scituate in its semifinal-round test.
As for the third-seeded Northmen, they will have to wait yet another year to vie for their program’s first appearance in the finals. After not qualifying for the playoffs in their first 42 years of existence (1968-2009), N.S. saw its all-time postseason record fall to 0-4 with its latest semifinal-round loss.
And if the Northmen had to pin the blame on one thing in last night’s defeat, it was their inability to prevent the Knights (7-1) from breaking off two long plays that resulted in touchdowns.
The Knights went into halftime with a 7-6 lead, but on the opening kickoff of the second half, Anderson was able to break off a 78-yard touchdown run that brought the small gathering of EWG fans to their feet.
He was able to break loose from a tackle and sidestep another one before he crossed the 50 with the ball, and once Anderson did that, he won a footrace down the Knights’ sideline and into the end zone.
And less than a minute after the Northmen turned the ball over on downs at the EWG 46, Anderson made it a two-possession contest with 6:38 to play in the third quarter with a 54-yard TD run that saw him barrel over a defensive back and sprint free to paydirt.
“You can’t do that,” N.S. head coach Wes Pennington said about the two big plays. “You just can’t do that and expect to win a playoff game. But [EWG] played well. Take your hats off to those guys. They played hard and they did what they needed to do to win the football game.”
The Northmen (5-3) got back a touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter on a 1-yard keeper up the middle by quarterback Mike Cicerone that came after Dylan Naradowy completed a long 58-yard halfback option pass to tight end Peter Keenan.
But they never got the ball past midfield on their last two possessions, and after Cicerone was intercepted by linebacker Ryan Ricard with 3:31 to play, the Knights ran out the clock to sew up the win.
“Someone’s got to lose,” said Pennington. “We had an awesome season. We played well. It’s just too bad it ends here again. We have to kick this door in sooner or later. Maybe next year it will happen. We’ll see.”
Anderson, who ran for 119 yards on 28 carries, scored his first touchdown of the night on an 18-yard run just 4:20 into the contest. Hornoff sparked the seven-play, 52-yard scoring drive with bootlegs of 13 and 10 yards, and Ian Geyer tacked on the extra point.
The Northmen, meanwhile, struggled to get going offensively in their first three possessions, going three-and-out on their first two series and fumbling the ball away on the Knights’ 37 on the second play of their third.
But after a poor punt by the Knights with 2:01 to go in the first quarter gave the Northmen the ball on their 45, N.S. went to work.
A 32-yard pass from Cicerone to wideout Matt Lachance, who wrestled the ball away from a defensive back before hitting the ground, gave N.S. the ball on the hosts’ 23.
Four carries later by Cody DeMarie and N.S. was on the board, as DeMarie (15 carries for 77 yards) barreled into the end zone from the nine on the first play of the second quarter.
Unfortunately, the visitors were unable to tie the score, as Naradowy’s extra-point missed its mark, and the duel stayed a one-point affair until Anderson’s big kickoff return.
EXETER/WEST GREENWICH. 21-13
North Smithfield 0 6 0 7 -- 13
Ex./W. Greenwich 7 0 14 0 -- 21
EWG – Dwight Anderson 18 run (Ian Geyer kick)
NS – Cody DeMarie 9 run (kick failed)
EWG – Dwight Anderson 78 kickoff return (Ian Geyer kick)
EWG – Dwight Anderson 54 run (Ian Geyer kick)
NS – Mike Cicerone 1 run (Dylan Naradowy kick)