PAWTUCKET — This year’s Woonsocket High football team bears little resemblance to the Villa Novan squads that captured Division II Super Bowl victories at the end of the previous two seasons. Graduation took its toll, along with injuries to two or three key players expected to lead the 2011 squad.
“This summer, we lost the quarterback I was counting on to lead the team -- Kory Nordby,” Woonsocket coach Carnell Henderson said after the Villa Novans dropped a 30-0 decision to St. Raphael Academy on Saturday. “Kory underwent surgery in July. Our best running back (Jalen Evans) sprained an ankle in the East Providence game and hasn’t played since. And we lost (lineman) Juan Rivera with an injury last week.”
The Villa Novans could sit back and feel sorry for themselves. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Woonsocket played a strong Saints team even for the first half on Saturday, trailing just 8-0 at intermission, before St. Raphael took command of the game, pulling away with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Shifty halfback Charles Correa scored SRA’s first three touchdowns, one on a 33-yard pass from quarterback Julian Diaz, and two on tough runs inside the 10-yard line. Diaz added a final touchdown with 1:43 left in the game.
“It’s a process this team is going through right now,” admitted Henderson, who is off crutches now from his own summer surgery, but still coaching from high up in the bleachers, leaving his assistants to run the game on the sidelines.
“Our kids have to see it, and believe in it, and find a way to win,” Henderson added. “They played St. Raphael hard in the first half but I’m not sure they knew what it would take to win this game.”
Eliminating mistakes would be a start. Woonsocket’s defense forced a punt on SRA’s first possession of the game when end Ryan Lagasse made a big rush on Diaz, forcing an intentional grounding call on third-and-seven. The Saints lined up to punt from their own 37. Woonsocket’s defense played for the punt. The Saints made a short snap to up-back James Berry, who ran 15 yards for a first down.
Woonsocket’s defense then forced a fourth-and-two at its own 39-yard line. Saints fullback Patrick Miranda burrowed ahead for four tough yards and a first down. Three plays later, Diaz lofted a perfect pass over the Woonsocket secondary into the arms of Correa in the middle of the field. The speedy Saint cruised into the end zone for the opening score.
Woonsocket countered with an impressive drive of its own. Sophomore Will Andino, filling Evans’s role as the breakaway back, returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Novans’ 45-yard line.
Quarterback Brett Bouchard then hit wide receiver Kyle Mulvey for 11 yards. Andino ran for eight. Bouchard found fullback Kyle McKellick for six yards and wide receiver Khalil Oliver for 12 yards down to the Saints’ 20-yard line.
On first down, Andino swept right end for 16 yards, setting up first-and-goal from the 4. After an incompletion and a five-yard penalty, Bouchard tried to hit Oliver on an inside route but Correa jumped the route and intercepted the pass.
Bouchard got intercepted by Colby Kingsbury at the Saints’ 29-yard line on the first play of the second quarter after Andino had gained 27 yards on a cutback run through the middle of SRA’s defense.
The Novans produced one decent drive before halftime, fueled by a face-mask penalty on Saints’ end Davon Robertson after a sack of Bouchard. That gave Woonsocket first down on SRA’s 49. A holding penalty and some inspired Saints defense forced a punt.
St. Raphael, now 2-1 in D-II and facing a tough road game against unbeaten West Warwick next Saturday, dominated the second half, moving 40 yards in six plays for its third score, a nine-yard sweep of left end by Correa, who beat the contain defender to the flag with a burst of speed.
Diaz hit a diving Miranda in the end zone for a two-point conversion pass and a 16-0 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
Miranda, who keys SRA’s defense from his middle linebacker position, set up the third Saints touchdown with a well-timed blitz. Bouchard had barely handed the ball off when Miranda broke through the line cleanly and blew up the play, recovering the football at the 7-yard line. Correa covered the final six yards on third down for the clinching touchdown.
Woonsocket, now 0-3 in Division II-B, will host a 1-2 Ponaganset team on Saturday afternoon at Barry Field.