CENTRAL FALLS --- It was of North Smithfield High head coach Wes Pugh-Pennington's volition to treat his Division IV showdown against Central Falls High on Friday night as a road playoff game.
“Our plan was to keep it simple,” he stated. “We knew it was their Homecoming, so we wanted to use this as preparation for the playoffs. We knew we'd see a tough C.F. Team come in and play hard, so we wanted to run the ball, mix it up and gain some yardage. But we also wanted to prove that we're North Smithfield, we're no fluke, and that we come to play football.”
Pugh-Pennington and his staff's plan worked to virtual perfection. The Northmen defense forced five turnovers and the backfield trio of senior Paris Correia and brothers Chris and Peter Mancini combined for 248 yards on 27 handles as they cruised to a 30-7 D-IV triumph over the Warriors at Macomber Stadium on Friday night.
Correia mustered 85 yards on 14 carries, senior co-captain Peter Mancini plowed for 81 on seven and kid brother Chris 82 more on six to help the Northmen improve to 5-3 overall, but – more importantly – secure the league's third spot.
“We solidified our position, so now we know we'll play the loser of the Mount Pleasant-Exeter/West Greenwich game (today),” Pugh-Pennington said. “We'll take it. They're both good teams.”
As for the Warriors, they fell to 2-7 overall and 2-6 in league action.
“We just had too many turnovers, and it's because we're just not that good,” said a matter-of-fact C.F. Mentor Mo Jackson after shaking hands with Pugh-Pennington's staff. “We had so many inexperinced guys coming in this year, so we knew we'd be young. We lost a lot of guys last year (to graduation), and we have yet to play four solid quarters this season.
“I mean, we'd move the ball, move the ball, and then turn it over,” he added. “We keep telling them, 'You've got to execute, but it just wasn't there. We have a lot of inexperienced players, and it showed here, so we've been taking our lumps this year.
“They're a quick team, for sure, but how many missed tackles did we have? We'd move the ball, but then shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The contest surely didn't start in favor of the Northmen – certainly not after Central Falls' Alex Andrade recovered Alex Londono's onside kick at the North Smithfield 48. The Warriors eventually moved to the Northmen 22, but Nathan Lussier intercepted quarterback Steve Vasquez' pass to end the threat.
Five players later, Chris Mancini plowed over from the 6, and Peter Mancini swept around left end for the two-point conversion for the 8-0 advantage.
After Jackson's crew stuffed North Smithfield's first-and-goal opportunity from its 6, C.F. punter Joshua Brandon's punt went only 21 yards. On the next snap, the first offensive play of the second quarter, Chris Mancini broke two tackles and hustled 48 yards for the touchdown. Correia's two-point conversion sweep made it 16-0.
Immediately, the Warriors maneuvered 63 yards on nine plays (12 coming on a pass interference penalty) to the North Smithfield 10. On fourth-and-eight from that spot, however, Vasquez' completed pass to Joel Peralta outside the right hash fell about two feet shy of the first down.
When Central Falls got the ball again, running back Joshua Brandon fumbled, and Northmen senior co-captain Peter Mancini scooped it up and returned it 32 yards for the paydirt. The two-point conversion run failed, but the visitors left the field at intermission with a 22-0 cushion.
Twice in the third quarter, the Warriors drove the ball to midfield or beyond, but nothing came of them. In fact, Correia's pick and eventual 18-yard return resulted in his own one-yard TD blast off right tackle. This time, Alex Blanchette battled for the conversion – and a 30-0 lead.
Central Falls took the ensuing kickoff 72 yards on eight snaps, the last a five-yard run off right tackle by senior tri-captain Jose Peraza on the fifth play of the fourth stanza. Londono booted the extra point, but North Smithfield basically ran out the clock.
Actually, the Warriors rushed for 184 yards on 40 handles, with Peraza mustering 114 on 18, but the trio of interceptions meant their demise.
“Peter Mancini's fumble recovery and TD run was the dagger,” Pugh-Pennington said later. “That was a big help. We didn't start too strong after that onside kick; that was huge for them, but the pick by Nate Lussier got us the ball back, and we took it right down field.
“We've been pretty good at creating turnovers this year, and we did again (Friday night),” he added. “I hope they continue.”
NORTH SMITHFIELD, 30-7
North Smithfield 8 14 8 0 – 30
Central Falls 0 0 0 7 – 7
NS – Chris Mancini 6 run (Peter Mancini run)
NS – Chris Mancini 48 run (Paris Correia run)
NS – Peter Mancini 32 fumble return (run failed)
NS – Paris Correia 1 run (Alex Blanchette run)
CF – Jose Peraza 5 run (Alex Londono kick)