WOONSOCKET — How do you develop a winning culture when you’ve won three league games over the last three seasons?
For Woonsocket football coach Charlie Bibeault and the talented Villa Novans, it started with hard work in the offseason that is paying off in the first two weeks of the season.
A week after downing Division I St. Raphael, the Villa Novans made a statement to the rest of Division II at the expense of Blackstone Valley rival Lincoln. Woonsocket senior running back Emmanuel Gomes rushed for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while senior quarterback Geraldi Paniagua completed eight of his nine passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns in the Novans’ 54-6 conquest of the Lions Saturday afternoon at Barry Field.
“We expected that we would have a good season,” Paniagua said. “We’ve been working our butts off since Day 1 and we’ve been in the weight room since last season ended. We’ve been working hard – we’re one of the hardest working teams in our division. All of these guys have been talking about a championship mentality since January. It’s about developing a winning mentality.”
“Getting the lead early is a big deal for us because none of these guys have ever had a winning season when they were in high school,” Woonsocket coach Charlie Bibeault said. “We’ve been working for this for the last six months. The culture we’re developing is all about working in the weight room. Everyone shows.”
Lincoln (0-2, 0-1 Division II) was overmatched at the line of scrimmage, which is a problem for a team that prides itself on running the ball. Junior quarterback Randall Hien completed 10 passes and threw a touchdown, but outside of senior Julian Karraz (62 yards rushing), the Lions struggled to move the ball on the ground.
The bad news for Lincoln is the schedule doesn’t get any easier next Friday night because undefeated West Warwick, whose defensive coordinator is Woonsocket’s Mike Cahill, comes to Ferguson Field.
“Woonsocket’s a very good team and they played hard, but we were overmatched,” Lincoln coach Sean Cavanaugh said. “We’re going to get back to work Monday and we’re going to focus on us. Today, we had some issues with our execution, but we’re not going to fault the effort. We just need to get back to work.”
Woonsocket (2-0, 1-0 Division II) will find out just how good they are when they travel to undefeated Westerly Friday night. The Novans can only hope to start that game the way they started Saturday’s because, after a Lincoln three-and-out, Paniagua threw a 34-yard pass on his team’s first play. Sophomore Logan Coles scored a one-yard touchdown on the next play.
Gomes said his favorite touchdown was his first of the day, which came on Woonsocket’s next offensive play. The senior took a toss to the right side, ran around a pair of Lincoln and scooted 60 yards for a touchdown. The Novans led 21-0 after the opening quarter after Paniagua connected with senior Justo Colon for a 31-yard touchdown.
Gomes scored an eight-yard touchdown to start the second quarter before Paniagua hit junior Dwayne Robinson-O’Hagan for a pair of touchdowns. First, Robinson-O’Hagan caught a 36-yard touchdown pass and then he ended the half with an acrobatic grab of an 18-yard score. Senior kicker Hezekiah Adeyeye connected on four of his six extra points to build a 40-0 lead at halftime.
“I didn’t think Lincoln had the same speed we had, so we wanted to throw the ball early and run the ball late,” Bibeault said. “Gomes is a man possessed this year – everyone knows that. He’s our ace in the hole right now.”
“Like I said last year, Emmanuel is the best running back in the state,” Paniagua said. “I don’t think anyone can compete with his athleticism. He’s explosive and he’s tough to tackle, one man can’t tackle him.”
Senior Charly Peralta and Coles each scored rushing touchdowns in the second half to finish off Woonsocket’s scoring. On the final play of the game, the Lions got on the scoreboard when Hien threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore John Jaramillo.
“We expected to come here and play hard - that’s all,” Gomes said.
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello