WOONSOCKET — Carnell Henderson had a hunch that West Warwick wouldn’t be a pushover. After watching game film of Saturday’s Division II-B opponent this week, the Woonsocket High coach felt the Wizards were a much better outfit than their 1-5 league mark indicated.
He was right…at least for the second half.
Luckily for Henderson’s crew, it took care of nearly all of its business in the game’s first two quarters en route to a 29-0 blanking of the Wizards on Senior Day at Barry Field. For the league’s top defensive team, the shutout is the Villa Novans fifth of the season.
Woonsocket scored three times in the first quarter and also had a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Kevin Reyes to take a 27-0 cushion into halftime. A safety in the fourth quarter would finalize the score. The win improves the playoff-bound Villa Novans to 6-1 in the league.
Next up is a quarterfinal matchup with Div. II-A rival Central on Friday night under portable lights back at the Woonsocket venue. The Knights (5-2) upset Chariho, 40-12, this past Friday to solidify their showdown with the Novans.
“I don’t know anything about their team,” Henderson admitted. “They won a big game against Chariho. They beat them convincingly. I expect a good team out there. The division is a tough division. Every week is a tough week. We just got to see what they have and get ready to go.”
Woonsocket benefitted from excellent field position in the first quarter to take an early 20-0 advantage. Under heavy pressure by the Novans’ defense, a two-yard punt by backup kicker Garrett DeBlois would set up the first score. On the first play from scrimmage following a five-yard penalty by WHS, Jesse Charette dashed into the end zone on a 35-yard pay dirt.
After forcing West Warwick to punt again on its next possession, Woonsocket was back in the Wizards’ territory when their second backup kicker, Zachary Deschane, had just an 18-yard boot. Two plays later, Reyes tossed a prefect 37-yard pass to Charette in the right corner of the end zone, a spiral that the senior receiver made an athletic, over-the-shoulder catch.
Woonsocket scored its third TD of the quarter off a blocked punt with senior Oswald “Pepe” Torres picking up the pigskin and scoring on a 23-yard return. John Poirer kicked two extra points in the half.
“We gave them good field position and they capitalized on it, which is what good teams do,” said West Warwick coach Shane Lagor, whose squad fell to 1-6 in the league and 1-8 overall. “Unfortunately we lost our punter last week. He is no longer part of our team. We had two guys that we worked into today. They got some good pressure on them so they really didn’t get their full leg into it.”
A quick, four-play drive late in the second quarter that began at the Wizards’ 28 would result in the Villa Novans’ final touchdown of the half - a 21-yard pass from Reyes to senior Geovanni Heredia.
Reyes has keyed several drives over the last few weeks with his arm.
“He has been throwing the ball very well,” Henderson said. “We are a running football team. We have to get back to running the football. We didn’t do that these last few weeks. But that’s also because the guys are loading up the box and trying to stop them. If they do that, it’s not like Kevin can’t throw the ball and I have some pretty good guys on the outside that can get it. We are going to just try and take what the defense gives us.”
Considering that the Villa Novans have allowed just 20 points this season, the 27-zip lead by the break pretty much sealed the Wizards’ fate.
“We knew we were up against a defense that has only given up 20 points this year,” Lagor said. “We were pretty much down in the end zone a couple of times. The play selection becomes reduced and their guys played hard in that area. We had a blocked punt, two bad punts and we just gave them good field position.”
West Warwick mustered just 29 yards of total offense in the first half with only three yards coming on the ground. It was a different story for the Wizards in the second half as it held the Novans to just their late-game safety in the fourth quarter and had 137 yards of offense after the break. Most of those yards came via the air as quarterback Ryan O’Kelly connected on seven of his 11 completions for the afternoon. Ryan Lawton was his best target. He finished the game hauling in six catches for 47 yards.
“I think in the second half we kind of fell asleep and our focus really wasn’t there,” Henderson said. “But you can’t take anything away from that football team. They protected the football. They did some very good things. I watched them on film and saw a good football team out there. We knew they were going to give a great effort. What they did in the second half is a true testament to this team.”
“That’s been our M-O all year. We have given up the big plays in the first half and we settle down and realize that we can play football,” Lagor said. “I like the fact that our guys play tough. (Woonsocket) didn’t make too many substitutions. They had their best guys on the field to the end. We are a (1-8) team. It’s very easy for my guys to pack it in, but the guys that we have left at this time of the season have really come together.”
Besides his score in the first quarter, Torres fueled the defense for Woonsocket with three interceptions.