BURRILLVILLE – Last Saturday night, after Burrillville High had posted a solid 34-8 victory over Exeter/West Greenwich, head coach Gennaro Ferraro explained that – following three previous dismal blowout losses – he felt his squad was “rounding the corner.
“I thought the kids got bumped off their orbit a little bit … we needed this win, and we got it,” he noted. “I think we're back on track.”
If Saturday afternoon is any indication, the Broncos' thundering herd has … well, been heard, and who knows what to expect from them as November draws near.
Senior tailback and captain Jonny Thornhill hustled and plowed for 236 yards and two paydirts on only 21 handles to propel Burrillville to a stellar 42-13 Division III triumph over struggling Tiverton before a mammoth Homecoming crowd of about 300 at Alumni Field.
Besides Thornhill's terrific gallops, sophomore receiver Riley Tupper quietly racked up 68 yards and a pair of scores on three catches, and also returned a punt 58 yards for another tally.
All told, the Broncos racked up 285 yards (via 38 carries) on the ground while improving to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in league action.
Just was impressive was Ferraro's defense, which stymied the Tigers on the turf and in the air. It yielded only 113 rushing yards on 32 tries, forced four fumbles (three lost) and also intercepted sophomore signal caller Justin Dore once. Add in sack for a minus-10 yards, and that defines a superb outing.
“I thought we played very well in every facet of the game,” a grinning Ferraro acknowledged after getting doused with a bucket full of juice or water, his players laughing at the sight. “Our offense runs through Jonny Thornhill. He's just a phenomenal player. The thing about him is he's got great vision, and when he makes the decision to go, he does with fantastic speed.
“He's a senior, and he's been working really hard with the weights and in practice for four years,” he added. “This is his time. The kid's a coach's dream on and off the field. Then again, our offensive line blocked great, springing him open, and Riley had a great day with the ball, making those catches.
“We really wanted to get off to a fast start (Saturday). Playing the option (offense) like Tiverton does, it's always tough on the defense. We knew our offense was going to have to set the tone. I want it to put pressure on their defense, and that in turn would take pressure off ours.”
The Tigers remained winless after the defeat, dropping to 0-6 overall and 0-5 in D-III. It did so for a variety of reasons, and Burrillville showed why virtually from the opening kickoff.
On Thornhill's first rush, he took a left-side sweep for 25, then hustled for seven more on the next snap. Two plays later, a wide-open Tupper accepted a 19-yard TD aerial in the left portion of the end zone, then booted the extra point for a quick 7-0 advantage.
Only 2:14 had elapsed.
After an immediate “three-and-out,” the Broncos needed just six plays to maneuver 64 yards, the final 53 by way of Thornhill's jaunt off right tackle. He broke a pair of tackles near the line of scrimmage, then bolted down the right sideline. When Tupper ripped the PAT, the hosts led, 14-0.
Just 6:33 had expired.
Its next drive stalled at the Tiverton 40 (thought it had moved to the 30), but do did the visitor's. Junior Jared Cordeira's punt traveled a long 41 yards, but Tupper snagged it on a bounce with his back turned to would-be tacklers, sprinted to the right sideline and ran untouched 58 yards for the score.
Not surprisingly, he added his own extra point to push the lead to 21-0.
The Tigers fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return, and Burrillville needed just four snaps to move 35 yards, that ending on Thornhill's bullish three-yard run around right end on only the sixth play of the second period.
Tiverton senior back Dylan Simmons fumbled on a two-yard gain off left guard, and senior defensive tackle Tyler Gaudreau pounced on it at the Tigers' 43. Fifteen “flag” yards later, officials had placed the pigskin at the 49, though DeSilva found Tupper on a 23-yard toss in the right flat, then did the same on a 26-yard aerial in the right front section of the end zone.
With 7:44 still remaining before the break, the Broncos had earned a 35-0 cushion.
Ferraro's crew did stop its foe on another “three-and-out,” but its following possession was squelched at the Tiverton 26.
At the start of the third quarter, it seemed as if the Tiverton staff's halftime chat had reached its players. Junior Nathaniel Boone returned the boot from Gautreau 27 yards to the Burrillville 47, marking its first foray into enemy territory. Two snaps after, after Dore had been sacked, junior defensive end Jake Wall scooped up the fumble and returned it 51 yards for the score.
Only 53 ticks had elapsed since both teams' return to the gridiron.
The Tigers finally broke through on its following drive, moving 63 yards on eight plays ending on Simmons' one-yard dive off left guard. With 7:26 left in the period, and after Cordeira's PAT, Tiverton trailed 42-7.
That's when Ferraro opted to mix in plenty of his JV players, both offensively and defensively. On the former side, freshman Matt Schiffmann racked up 17 yards on six carries, fellow frosh Jake Losardo eight on three, junior Jack Collins 10 on a pair and senior Colin Droste six on three.
Tiverton scored on its final possession, cruising 41 yards on four calls; that ended on Dore's nine-yard keeper around the left side.
For good measure, junior Jake Wilson blocked Cordeira's point-after attempt with 4:39 left in regulation.
“Like I told you, I thought we had been knocked out of our orbit, but now we're back in the groove,” Ferraro grinned. “All of this is a process, and you have to believe in that process. The kids are starting to believe again after the hiccup. It's a great group of guys to coach, and they accepted this challenge. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Tiverton 0 0 7 6 – 13
Burrillville 21 14 7 0 – 42
BURR – Riley Tupper 19 pass from Isaiah DeSilva (Tupper kick)
BURR – Jon Thornhill 53 run (Tupper kick)
BURR – Tupper 58 punt return (Tupper kick)
BURR – Thornhill 3 run (Tupper kick)
BURR – Tupper 26 pass from DeSilva (Tupper kick)
BURR – Jacob Wall 47 fumble return (Tupper kick)
TIV – Dylan Simmons 1 run (Jared Cordeira kick)
TIV – Justin Dore 9 run (kick blocked)