WOONSOCKET -- Fantastic finish for Ponaganset. Heartbreaker for Woonsocket.
Connor Mathieu’s three-yard touchdown run with 37.8 seconds to play broke a 6-6 tie and lifted the Chieftains to a much-needed 13-6 triumph over the winless Villa Novans on Saturday afternoon at Barry Field.
The Chieftains, who entered the contest with back-to-back Division II-B losses to Mount Hope and West Warwick, desperately needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, even their division record at 2-2, and climb into a tie for fourth place with the Huskies (2-2), who lost to unbeaten Tolman on Friday night.
“The way this division has been going, anyone can beat anyone,” said Ponaganset head coach Brian Gendreau. “Last weekend’s (14-12) loss to West Warwick was a tough loss, but I wanted them to bounce back, and today, they showed they could.”
And thanks to a ball-control offense in the second half that kept the Chieftains on offense for all but 7:17 of the half and helped wipe out a 6-3 halftime deficit, the visitors were able to bus home with their ‘W’.
“We had two long drives in the second half and that showed that our offensive line really stepped it up,” noted Gendreau. “I told them it was gut-check time and they came through.”
While Gendreau was elated with the victory, he was equally happy to see his team step up and play four solid quarters of football, something that had been lacking in recent weeks.
“This is what we wanted them to do all year long -- play four quarters of football,” offered Gendreau. “Up to this point, we played great halves, but we hadn’t played four great quarters of football, and today, we gave it our best for four quarters.”
The Novans (now 0-4) also played well for four quarters and gave their visitors all they could handle in what may be their best effort of the year. But the Chieftains, behind the strong running of fullbacks Scott Peterson and Dylan Gadbois, found a way to keep the chains moving, especially in the final 24 minutes.
“Like I told the guys, it wasn’t for a lack of effort,” added Woonsocket head coach Carnell Henderson. “Guys that we’re counting on to make plays just aren’t making them. We’re not executing, and in this game, everyone has to execute in order for a play to be successful.”
Midway through the third quarter, the Chieftains tied the score at 6-6 on a 31-yard field goal by Peterson. That score capped a 14-play, 57-yard drive that drained 6½ minutes off the clock and saw Peterson lug the ball eight times for 35 yards.
After the Novans went three-and-out on their next possession, the Chieftains again milked the clock in a 10-play, 57-yard drive that brought the ball to the hosts’ one. But on the next play, Peterson fumbled the ball at the one, and a swarm of maroon jerseys fell on the loose ball in the end zone.
But with 5:40 to go, the Chieftains got the ball back on their 33, and on 13 plays, they got the ball to the Novans’ one. They picked up a first down on two fourth-and-one situations, and quarterback Chris Larrabee hit Will Girard with a 21-yard pass and Peterson with a 17-yard pass to fuel the drive.
“Our two fullbacks, Scott Peterson and Dylan Gadbois, did an excellent job, and the way that they ran between the tackles was outstanding,” said Gendreau. “And Chris (Larrabee) made some key throws in that drive. I can’t be any more proud of the way they played.”
With 42.9 seconds on the clock, Gadbois tried to run the ball up the middle, but he was stopped in the backfield for a two-yard loss. But after a time-out, Mathieu was able to score the game-winning points on his TD run toward the right pilon.
The Chieftains scored their first points of the afternoon on a 42-yard field goal by Peterson, and they nearly had a chance to add to their slim lead midway through the second quarter with a strong six-play drive that brought the ball from their 44 to the Novans’ 17.
But the Villa Novans got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Seydou Niang that brought the ball to the Novans’ 43, and six plays later and with 1:54 on the clock, they took the lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brett Bouchard to Kyle McKellick.
Peterson ended the game with 116 yards on the ground on 23 carries, and Larrabee hit seven of his 15 passes for 92 yards, 51 coming in the game-winning drive.
The Novans were fueled by the return of speedy tailback Jalen Evans, who missed the last few weeks with a calf injury and ran for 97 yards on 19 carries. Free safety D’Andre Thomas also came back from an injury to help solidify the Villa Novans’ secondary.
“You could see the difference,” added Henderson. “(Having them back) gives us a little more athleticism. We’re a little better team, but we have to slowly work those guys back into our system.
“We still have other guys out there who we think can play as well, but they have to have confidence in themselves and make the plays when they’re called upon.”
Ponaganset 3 0 3 7 -- 13
Woonsocket 0 6 0 0 -- 6
P – Scott Peterson 42 field goal
W – Kyle McKellick 15 pass from Brett Bouchard (kick failed)
P – Scott Peterson 31 field goal
P – Connor Mathieu 3 run (Scott Peterson kick)