NORTH PROVIDENCE — For North Smithfield, Saturday’s Division IV contest against North Providence was more of a mental exercise than physical.
Forced to come back on a few occasions, the Northmen dug deep to take this shootout, 38-34. North Providence enjoyed leads early – 12-0 after the first quarter – and late – 34-31 with 8:47 remaining – before N.S. delivered a series of game-changing plays on both sides of the ball that allowed the visitors to cast a pall over the Cougars’ Homecoming celebration.
“It’s a good character win,” stated a clearly relieved Wes Pennington, head coach of a Northmen squad that’s now won two straight league games to improve to 2-1. “Falling behind, getting the lead before falling behind again … we could have shut it down but we kept playing.”
Senior Paris Correia single-handedly brought North Smithfield from the depths of despair in the opening half, scoring three rushing touchdowns in the second quarter to help his team build a 24-18 advantage at halftime. Correia helped stretch the Northmen’s lead to 31-18 in the third quarter after returning an interception for 59 yards.
The pick came when Correia cut in front of North Providence intended target Dylan Tirocchi before quarterback Ian Brown allowed the play to fully develop. Correia’s pick six score was one of three TDs the Northmen garnered off of Cougar turnovers.
While Correia grabbed the headlines early, several of his teammates took turns in sealing up the ‘W.’ Quarterback Dan Jordan delivered what proved to be the deciding score, the senior slightly hesitating just enough to throw North Providence off balance before running right up the middle for a 35-yard scamper to put N.S. back in front with 7:25 to play.
“The play before (Jordan’s TD), I wanted him to run it from under center,” Pennington explained. “He was able to get a few yards [actually five with the Northmen receiving an additional 15 yards due to the Cougars committing a facemask infraction] and I wanted him to run it again. The defense looks different (when Jordan lines up in the shotgun formation).”
The next order of business was to slow down the Cougars’ offense, which the Northmen did by forcing their opponent into a three-and-out. The second-down snap proved key as Ryan Masnyk prevented Brown from scrambling for yardage, tacking the North Providence signal caller for a two-yard loss. Subbing for usual starter Joel Diaz, Brown was able to burn North Smithfield for two QB sneaks in the second half, both covering 12 yards.
North Smithfield’s chance to run valuable time off the clock did not go as planned after Pennington & Co. picked up just six yards in three downs. Disaster appeared to strike on the punt attempt as the snap to Cam Stone was poor, but the senior was able to quickly recover and get off a kick.
The punt wound up traveling nine yards, but in Pennington’s eyes, the fact Stone tracked the ball down helped prevent would have been a short field for the Cougars. Instead, North Providence took over at its own 44 with 3:48 left.
After running four plays and picking up a first down, North Providence positioned itself at the 30. On second-and-7, Masnyk shot the gap to get a clean shot on Cougars ball carrier Samuel Odukoya. The ball came loose with Anthony Cabral quickly pouncing on it to complete what was a senior-dominated comeback for North Smithfield.
Behind two first downs that forced North Providence (2-2, 1-2, Division IV) to burn its final timeout, N.S. was able to run out the final 1:57. Another tough challenge awaits the Northmen at home on Saturday when defending Super Bowl champion Mount Pleasant pays a visit.