WOONOCKET – Chris Skurka had no intention on letting up.
Despite a more important playoff game early next week, the Cumberland High coach planned to have his red-hot squad go full throttle against Woonsocket in their annual Thanksgiving Day contest.
He lied. Well, sort of.
The Clippers scored four times in the first quarter, found the end zone again in the second quarter and gave the reserves some ample playing time after halftime in cruising to a 35-6 rout of the Villa Novans on Thursday morning.
With all their stats coming in the first half, senior Ryan Harrison earned MVP honors by returning two punts for touchdowns and senior Erik Travers had a TD and rushed for 149 on 11 handles as the Clippers put a halt to a four-game winning streak by the Novans.
The victory is the seventh straight for the Clippers, who face Division II-A's top seed Chariho Regional in the semifinals this Tuesday night.
“We had a great focus,”Skurka said. “I told the kids we need to get in and out of this game. We have bigger and better things to do on Tuesday. It's still a rivalry game. It couldn't have gone any other way. I wanted it to be this way. We definitely wanted to keep the throttle on and we got all the starters out in the second half. They only played half a game.”
A young and inexperienced Woonsocket team, one that compiled a 1-6 record in Div. II-B, managed less than a 100 total yards. Cumberland garnered nearly 250 yards with most of that total coming before the break.
“I just don't think we executed well,” Woonsocket coach Carnell Henderson said. “We turned the ball over a few times. It's areas we have to get better at.”
Cumberland scored on two of its first three possessions and added two more scores the final few minutes of the opening quarter. The Clippers began the contest with a seven-play, 60-yard drive that ended with junior quarterback Brendan Guerin tossing a 10-yard TD pass to junior Trent Vasey.
The Clippers couldn't take advantage of a recovered fumble on the Villa Novans' opening drive. But after forcing Woonsocket to go four-and-out, Cumberland doubled its lead when Harrison scored his first TD on a 34-yard punt return down the left sideline.
Travers capped off a short four-play drive with a 63-yard run with 2:09 left. To add to the Villa Novans' frustration, junior Dan Stock made it 28-zip in the Clippers' favor, scoring with 3.6 seconds left on a 20-yard run.
“What you saw in the first quarter is typical of what you saw all season pretty much,” Henderson said. “It's tough when you really don't have any answers. We have to get back to the drawing board this off-season and get ready for next year.”
Harrison finalized the score for Cumberland in the second half with a 57-yard punt return with just 39.6 seconds left in the half. The senior standout was ready for a big game, his final in the holiday tilt.
“Every time, my plan is to score,” he said.”I never want to do anything else. I just put my head down and run. To be honest, that's all blocking. I just saw the open lane and ran.”
“Ryan's a first year senior. He's a great kid,” Skulker added. “He has a lot of character. That's what we look for in football players. They are all great kids. Two of the guys that were the biggest part of this game are two guys that didn't play last year, Erik Travers, also. Erik was a football player that was hurt last year and wasn't able to play. Things are turning around. We got the right kids playing football in Cumberland. We got a seven-game winning streak. We have a shot at Chariot again. We are right where we want to be.”
Woonsocket prevented the shutout with time running out when freshman back-up quarterback Miguel Raymond tossed a perfect 14-yard spiral to senior Khalil Oliver in the left corner of the end zone.
Cumberland 28 7 0 0 - 35
Woonsocket 0 0 0 6 – 6
C – Brendan Guerin 10 pass to Trent Vasey (Chris Attunes kick)
C – Ryan Harrison 30 punt return (Attunes kick)
C – Erik Travers 63 run (Attunes kick)
C – Dan Stock 20 run (Attunes kick)
C – Harrison 57 punt return (Attunes kick)
W – Miguel Raymond 14 pass to Khalil Oliver