WARWICK – When he took the head coaching position at Woonsocket High a few years ago, Carnell Henderson stated that one of his primary goals was to develop the Villa Novans into a Division I squad.
He may have got a glimpse of how that would look on Saturday afternoon as his talented and speedy crew certainly played like it belongs there.
An expected close affair with Div. II-B rival Toll Gate was a rout by the first quarter as the Villa Novans spoiled the Titans’ Homecoming contest in a big way, coasting to a surprisingly easy 48-0 victory.
Both squads went into the game tied for second place in the division with identical 3-1 marks. But the defending Super Bowl champions made the Titans appear like a jayvee squad before the second quarter even began.
By that point, Woonsocket scored on all three of its possessions in the quarter to bolt out to a 21-0 advantage. The Villa Novans built their lead to 35-zip by halftime and never looked back en route to their convincing verdict.
Just how convincing?
Besides doing its damage offensively, Woonsocket’s stingy defense held Toll Gate to only 16 yards on the ground. The Villa Novans sacked quarterback Mitchell Howkins twice for minus 18 yards and intercepted the junior signal-caller three times. The Titans didn’t reach plus yardage on the ground until running back Derrick Durand broke free for a 12-yard gain with 8:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Durand’s big run came after the Villa Novans put their final points on the scoreboard and was against their second-stringers, who did a commendable job in maintaining the shut out in the final quarter.
Needless to say, Henderson was happy, but a bit stunned by his Villa Novans’ runaway triumph.
“That’s a good football team that we beat,” he said. “Watching them on film, I was definitely worried coming into this game. We did some things well. We came out offensively and really hit on all cylinders. I think it just kind of changed the tempo of the game and the things that they wanted to do. That’s something different for us. We usually have a slow start. The goal has been all week to start early, and offensively we did that.”
Offensively, sophomore Jalen Evans turned in a sterling effort for the Villa Novans, scoring twice and rushing for 63 yards on just 10 handles. Senior quarterback Kevin Reyes tossed for pair of touchdowns and senior tight end Geovanni Heredia found the end zone on the turf and via the air.
Overall, though, it was a team effort that got the job done.
“They just showed their athleticism,” Toll Gate head coach Bill King said. “We haven’t seen a team yet that fast and athletic, and they showed it today. They just make plays everywhere. You give them a small seam and they just take it. They are very, very athletic and very good. They are well-coached.”
Woonsocket set the tone for the game in the first quarter. It began on the Titans’ opening possession. Howkins came out throwing, completing four of his first five attempts and getting the ball down the Novans’ 30. But after the Titans were tagged for a penalty to bring the ball back five yards, Howkins’ next pass to the right sideline was intercepted by senior Oswald Torres, who returned the theft all the way to the Titans’ 30. Four plays later, Reyes found Torres up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown. Kevin Poirer booted the first of six extra points to give Woonsocket a quick 7-0 lead.
That was only the start.
After pinning the Titans at the 21 on the kickoff, Woonsocket’s defense limited the Titans to minus 15 yards on their first three plays, including a 10-yard loss on a sack of Howkins. Forced their opponent to punt, the Villa Novans got excellent field position at the Titans’ 35. On the first play from scrimmage, Evans had his first pay dirt, running loose to the left sideline and into the end zone.
The Novans would make it 21-0 by the end of the quarter with junior Orlan Thomas capping off a short, four-play, 23-yard drive with a six-yard TD run.
Woonsocket scored twice in the second quarter. Reyes found Heredia for a 16-yard TD just 16 seconds into the quarter. That score was set up after defensive end Brian Cahill tipped a pass by Howkins and then caught the ball as he was falling to the ground to give the Novans the ball at the 16. On the first play, Reyes lobbed a pass to Heredia near the left corner of the end zone to put his teammates ahead, 28-0.
After getting Toll Gate deep in its own territory on a great kickoff from senior John Fonseca, Woonsocket terrorized the Titans again when Jesse Charette intercepted a Howkins’ pass near the 20 and returned it for another touchdown, giving the Novans their commanding 35-0 lead at the break.
Evans would scored his second TD on a 28-yard run in the third quarter and Heredia would finalize the score in the fourth with a 35-yarder.
Toll Gate was without a few of its starters, but King felt it didn’t matter after what he exhibited in the first 24 minutes of the contest.
“We had five starters out today,” he said. “Two were because of injuries and three that got suspended for disciplinary reasons. All five were starters and three were two-way starters. That slowed us down a little bit. But the way (Woonsocket) came out and played that first half, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. They are a great team.”
For Woonsocket, it’s the third straight shutout it has posted against its divisional opponents and fourth in the last five games. After suffering their lone setback to Tolman, a 6-0 loss on Sept. 24, Woonsocket defeated St. Raphael Academy, 16-0, and Ponaganset, 28-0.
After the Chieftain contest on Oct. 9, Woonsocket had a bye last weekend before facing Toll Gate.
“I think the bye week was a huge help for us,” Henderson said. “We were able to focus on some little things that we weren’t doing well. I think we capitalized on those things. The season is all about a journey. A lot of these kids have tons of potential, but we just had to get out there and get the reps and the opportunity to play. Given those opportunities and those reps and being comfortable allows you to start being athletic. I think that’s what they did, and I think that’s what they are doing.”
Woonsocket returns to Barry Field next Saturday when it takes on a strong Mount Hope squad in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl game. The Huskies stand at 3-2 in the division after a 20-16 loss to the Saints on Friday.
“We have a huge game against Mount Hope,” Henderson stated. “They just lost a tough one to St. Ray’s (Friday) so we know they are going to come out and be ready to play. The last two years we have played them, all of the games have been very tough. Mount Hope is a well-disciplined, well-coached team. I expect their best next week.”