SCITUATE --- Scituate made it interesting and competitive for a full quarter, but the winless Spartans ended up becoming nothing more than a minor speed bump in North Smithfield’s drive to the Division IV regular-season title.
The visiting Northmen erased a first-quarter deficit by erupting for 28 second-quarter points and cruising to a 60-13 rout at Caito Field that iced the squad’s first regular-season championship in its 44-year existence.
This victory was the sixth straight for N.S. (7-2 overall, 6-2 in division action) and it makes it official -- the Northmen will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s playoffs and entertain fourth-seeded Central Falls on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Northmen Athletic Complex.
“This is a great accomplishment,” said N.S. head coach Wes Pennington, who was still dripping wet from a celebratory water bucket dunking by his players with three minutes left in the game. “These guys worked hard for this and I’m proud of this team. We’re definitely blessed.”
In order to clinch the regular-season title and the top seed, the Northmen had to do the expected and put away the worst team in the league in the Spartans, who were outscored 485-69 in their 10 losses.
But for a quarter, the Spartans did their best to spring a major upset, and less than four minutes into the game, they stunned the crowd by taking a 7-0 lead.
After recovering a pooch kickoff to the Northmen at the N.S. 34, the Spartans went to work on offense, and on eight plays, they pounded their way into the end zone on a three-yard run by Nicholas McKeon.
Alex Frederickson then added the extra point, and when his kick bounced off the crossbar and plopped over it, it appeared the Spartans had Lady Luck on their side.
“It’s a Thanksgiving game,” added Pennington, whose team wore their white throwback uniforms. “It was one of those things where (Scituate) came out, it was their Senior Day, and they threw their best punch at us.”
The Northmen then responded on their next possession, and on 11 plays, they marched from their 17 to the end zone and broke on the board on a four-yard TD run by Paris Correia.
But Jacob Walkow, who was automatic for most of the day on his extra-point attempts, missed his first kick by barely hooking it right, and the hosts were still able to cling to their lead.
The Spartans then went three-and-out on their next possession, but on the first play of the second quarter and on fourth-and-2 from their 47, they tried a fake punt. But Frederickson, the Spartans’ punter, had a pass to an open teammate get batted away by a Northmen defender.
The Northmen then took the lead with 9:36 to go in the half on an 11-yard run by Chris Mancini, and they were far from done.
A little over a minute later, sophomore Peter Keenan found the end zone on a 25-yard interception return, and after Correia scored on another four-yard run with 3:51 on the clock, Mancini had a “pick-six” with a 62-yard interception return with 29.6 seconds left in the half to make it a 34-7 game.
N.S.’s other touchdowns came on a strong 35-yard run by Mancini five plays into the third quarter, a 50-yard run by Correia and a 26-yard fumble recovery by Mancini in the quarter’s final minute, and a 23-yard run by Daniel Jordan that was his first TD of the season.
In addition to the three TDs Correia and Mancini each scored, they also did the bulk of the work offensively and teamed up to total more than 300 yards on the ground. Correia, a 1,000-yard rusher, had 170 yards on 14 carries, and Mancini ran for a career-high 131 yards on just 13 handoffs.
NORTH SMITHFIELD, 60-13
North Smithfield 6 28 19 7 -- 60
Scituate 7 0 6 0 -- 13
S -- Nicholas McKeon 3 run (Alex Frederickson kick)
NS -- Paris Correia 4 run (kick failed)
NS -- Chris Mancini 11 run (Jacob Walkow kick)
NS -- Peter Keenan 25 interception return (Jacob Walkow kick)
NS -- Paris Correia 4 run (Jacob Walkow kick)
NS -- Carlos Guzman 62 interception return (Jacob Walkow kick)
NS -- Chris Mancini 35 run (Jacob Walkow kick)
S -- Derrik Gouveia 4 run (pass failed)
NS -- Paris Correia 50 run (kick blocked)
NS -- Chris Mancini 26 fumble recovery (kick failed)
NS -- Daniel Jordan 23 run (Jacob Walkow kick)