WOONSOCKET — Two-time defending Division II champion Woonsocket High faces a loaded Tolman squad next weekend in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl.
The preparation for the big showdown at Barry Field will be thorough for the Villa Novans. Chances are that workload will be intensified slightly more after their II-B opener against visiting Pilgrim Saturday afternoon.
The Villa Novans found themselves in rare territory, committing a number of mental miscues in a shocking 18-7 loss to the Patriots. Alex Leddy scored twice to lead Pilgrim, a team that won just two league games the last two years, including a winless 0-7 campaign in 2010.
“There’s a lot of work to be done. There are a lot of guys that haven’t played here before and not understanding their assignments,” said Woonsocket coach Carnell Henderson, who lost more than a dozen players from last year’s squad that went 6-1 in the division and defeated the previously-unbeaten Tigers, 28-14, in the Super Bowl. “This game is all about trusting your position and trusting each other. When you are putting new guys out there, guys are just uncomfortable and you kind of get the result you saw today.”
Woonsocket, which was blanked 42-0 by Div. I power East Providence in a non-leaguer last Friday, failed to get near the red zone on its two possessions in the first quarter. But the Villa Novans needed just two plays to score at the start of the second quarter. With the ball near midfield after the Villa Novans’ defense allowed the Patriots just 21 yards on seven plays, senior fullback Kyle McKellick hustled for a 19-yard gain. On the next play, junior Kyle Mulvey broke free for a 28-yard TD run. John Poirer booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Pilgrim managed to get within a point with 2:31 remaining in the quarter, benefitting from a turnover by Woonsocket. The Villa Novans stopped an aggressive Patriots’ drive at their own four-yard line, but three plays later gave the ball back to Pilgrim when WHS quarterback Brett Bouchard was intercepted on a third-and-8 opportunity from the six-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage on the 15, quarterback Lee Verrier spotted receiver Mike Malozzi in the right corner of the end zone for the score. The back-breaker and eventual game-winner came with less than a second on the clock when Leddy bullied his way into the end zone for a two-yard TD run.
The Patriots gained excellent field position in the seven-play drive when Poirer couldn’t get a handle on a high snap on a punt attempt. Pilgrim got the ball at the Novans’ 27 on the play. A pair of passes from Verrier, including a 17-yarder to John DeVito on a fourth-and-2 situation, got the ball to the two-yard line. With a few seconds remaining, Woonsocket was called for a penalty, allowing the Patriots another chance to score and they took advantage.
“I don’t think we did too much well all game,” Henderson said. “We had (the) penalty at the one-yard line when the time was running out that they wouldn’t get the score. That play, more than the high snap, hurt us. It was just multiple things happening that shouldn’t happen to a well-coached, a well-disciplined football team. As a coaching staff, we just have to make the corrections and try to get ready for a tough Tolman team.
Woonsocket’s defense stopped the Patriots from scoring from inside the 20, four times in the contest. But after Pilgrim held the Villa Novans to minus 11 yards on four plays late in the fourth quarter, Pilgrim was able to put the game away by scoring with less than three minutes on the clock.
After the Patriots’ Vinny DeVito had a good return on a Woonsocket punt to get the ball to the 25, Pilgrim needed just five plays before Leddy would make his mark again on a five-yard run up the middle.
Filling in at back for injured star Jalen Evans and sophomore D’Andre Thomas, Mulvey manufactured a strong running game for Woonsocket with more than 125 yards on the ground along with his score.
“He’s our No. 3 back,” Henderson said. “Jalen Evans, who was projected to be our starter, got hurt. The kid who was backing him up (Thomas) is out hurt. Now you have [Mulvey] whose playing, who did a great job for us, but was playing defense as well. He’s spent. It’s just matter of trying to get healthy and putting people in the right positions. I take nothing from Pilgrim. They came out and fought all game and took advantage of it.”
Woonsocket will now try and re-group and prepare itself with a sure-to-be dogfight with Tolman. On Friday, the Tigers won a 22-14 thriller over league rival St. Raphael Academy.
“We just have to watch the film and be ready to play,” said Henderson, about next Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. matchup at Barry Field. “That’s our job as coaches. We have to work with the guys. I am confident with the guys I see out there. We just have to do a better job as coaches in putting our guys in situations and making plays. As long as the kids keep showing up, we’ll keep playing.”