WOONSOCKET – Regardless of the outcome, Woonsocket High head coach Carnell Henderson can take what just transpired on the gridiron and break it down in simple, easy-to-understand terms.
Following Saturday’s 21-14 non-league loss to Division II foe Rogers – Woonsocket seemed stuck in neutral on an afternoon where Homecoming was celebrated at Barry Field – Henderson was his usual flawless self as he attempted to digest what exactly went wrong.
True, the loss to the Vikings does not count as far as the Division II-B standings are concerned, a point that is not lost on Henderson. Yet after watching the Villa Novans absorb their first loss of the 2013 campaign in rather disappointing fashion, the mentor feels that notion of a “good loss” can splinter off in several directions.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” stated Henderson, his Woonsocket crew now 5-1 overall, 3-0 in league action. “It’s a humbling loss, so it pops that bubble that they evidently had. If this loss doesn’t get them back to the fundamentals of the game, then I don’t know what it does.
“At the same time, it doesn’t hurt you in the standings,” he continued. “There’s no such thing as a good loss because you want to win every game, but if there was ever a day to have a bad game, this was it.”
The most alarming aspect for Woonsocket was the team’s inability to take advantage of the field-position opportunities that were in essence laid at its feet several times during the second half. Rogers turned the ball over three times inside its own 15 yard-line, twice alone in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter.
Alas, the Novans could only muster one touchdown out of the myriad of “gifts” presented by the Vikings, who shared a common bond with their opponents – that of being loose and free with the pigskin at times. One time, Woonsocket fumbled the ball on the third snap after starting out first-and-goal on the seven.
Another painful instance surfaced in the fourth quarter after senior Francisco Torres pounced on the third of four fumbles lost by Rogers. Starting out first-and-goal from the four, Woonsocket was pushed and knocked out to the point that it went backwards 16 yards – quarterback Miguel Raymond was sacked twice for a loss a 12 yards coupled with two negative-two rushing attempts.
The turnover on downs came with 3:16 remaining and Rogers sitting on a 21-6 advantage. Just when it appeared all was completely lost, there was hope after the Vikings committed yet another fumble that junior Austin Wolter collected at the Rogers’ 20 with 2:33 flashing on the scoreboard.
A desperate Woonsocket team pulled out all the stops on its way to closing to within seven points. A hard, two-yard run by Jaston Robinson capped off a four-play drive with Raymond hitting senior Josh Trinidad for two points.
Setting up for the onside kick, Woonsocket inadvertently booted the ball out of bounds. Rogers took over near midfield with 1:49 left, though it was hardly time to get in victory formation. The Vikings put the ball on the deck on first down, though were able to retain possession. Looking to get out of Dodge, Rogers head coach Frank Newsome called two straight basic running plays before Woonsocket was whistled for defensive offsides on third down.
The extra down enabled Rogers to melt away the remaining 26 seconds, its final offensive snap marking the 20th of the half (for comparison’s sake, Woonsocket snapped the ball 33 times). The Vikings improve to 4-2 overall, 3-1 in Division II-A.
“Woonsocket is a very talented and physical group. They’ve got speed and kids who can make plays,” noted Newsome. “It seemed that we spent the whole fourth quarter deep in our own territory, but the kids made plays. That’s all you can hope for.”
The key player for the Vikings was Liam Leys. The senior wideout factored in all three of his team’s scores – two on receptions from quarterback Quaraan Bostic and one on a nifty 60-yard punt return that came in the second quarter and featured Leys shed one would-be Woonsocket tackle before running into the heart of the Vikings’ blocking scheme.
The two touchdowns that Rogers compiled through the air proved that Woonsocket’s secondary is human after all. The first Bostic-to-Leys connection covered 15 yards and put the Vikings up for good after D’Andre Thomas barreled his way in from two yards out at the 3:25 mark of the opening quarter.
Raymond’s tough day consisted of two interceptions and three sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble that Rogers recovered. The normally reliable Will Andino, who took snaps at quarterback in the fourth quarter, also fumbled the ball away twice.
Yes, it was only a non-leaguer, but enough bad things happened that surely Henderson and his assistant coaches will plenty to harp on leading up to this week’s league game against Toll Gate. The winless Titans invade Barry Field this Saturday.
“It seemed that everyone played their worst game at the same time,” sighed Henderson. “It was humbling, but now we go back to the drawing board and get ready for league play.”
At halftime, a special dedication was held for Shannon Heil, a member of the Novan family who was lost in a tragic accident this past summer. The Woonsocket cheerleaders presented flowers to Shannon’s father, Brian Heil. In addition, the Woonsocket players wore stickers on the back of their helmets with the initials “S.H.” on them.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03