WOONSOCKET — Woonsocket High is holding one major ace in the hole heading into Tuesday night’s Division II semifinal showdown against Chariho.
The Villa Novans’ defense comes to play every game, and gives up touchdowns only on the rarest of occasions. Woonsocket shut out six opponents this year and allowed only 20 points in eight games against Division II foes this season. Division II-B champion Tolman dented Woonsocket for one score in a 6-0 win back in September and Mount Hope collected 14 in a 34-14 loss in late October.
“Our defense takes great pride in not allowing anyone to score on them,” Woonsocket coach Carnell Henderson admitted. “Coach (Derek) Grinkin puts the kids in the right places and they fly to the football.”
In Thursday’s 14-0 victory over Cumberland, defensive back Pepe Torres returned an interception 70 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that sealed the victory.
“Football games can be broken down into three categories – offense, defense and special teams,” Henderson added. “Cumberland played us even in two of those three but our defense would not be beat.”
The Villa Novans need to sustain their defensive dominance on Tuesday night when they visit a tough Chariho team that can match Woonsocket’s size.
“They are a big, physical football team,” Henderson said. “We’re pretty big, too, but I would give Chariho a size advantage over us.”
Chariho will try to run the ball against Woonsocket. The Chargers’ feature back is Jordan Cassidy, who rushed for 802 yards on 124 carries during the regular season. Quarterback Jansen Williamson completed 46 of 89 passes for 430 yards and also ran the ball for 240 yards on 37 carries. Running backs Chris Cole (72-274) and Joe DeSpirito (61-255) will also test Woonsocket’s defense.
Chariho’s offense ran wild during a 45-26 victory over Division IV contender Exeter/West Greenwich on Thanksgiving Day. Cassidy broke loose for long TD runs of 62 and 55 yards in the third quarter.
Against Division II opponents, Chariho only averaged 19 points per game. The Chargers lost a 20-14 verdict to Shea and got hammered by Central 40-12 in early November. Their defense also gave up a lot of points to EWG, and that is something that could bode well for Woonsocket’s offense.
“We had a horrible offensive game against Cumberland,” Henderson admitted, thinking back to the 66 yards in total offense his team accumulated. “I can’t take anything away from Cumberland. They were all fired up for us and played great. But we made a lot of mistakes on offense.
“The good thing is, our kids know they made those mistakes,” Henderson added. “It’s easier for us to coach them in this situation. Sometimes, when you get on a roll as a team, it’s hard to stay humble. But not after the Cumberland game. You could see our kids were feeling bad. They accepted the trophy for winning the Thanksgiving game but none of them were smiling. They knew they could do better.”
Woonsocket is dealing with a short week of preparation for Chariho. The Villa Novans practiced on Saturday and then the coaching staff went back to look at more film of Chariho. The team will practice again on Sunday and Monday, then form together after school on Tuesday for the long bus ride down to Wood River Junction for the 7 p.m. kickoff.
“We will continue to fine-tune things in practice,” Henderson said. “It’s a short week for the players and the coaches but we’ll be ready to play on Tuesday.”