WOONSOCKET — Inside the Barry Field meeting/locker room hangs a sign reading simply, “Discipline: Do what has to be done; when it has to be done; as well as it can be done; do it that way all the time.”
Excepting a couple of fumbles (one lost) and five penalties for a minus-32 yards, Woonsocket High pretty much followed those instructions to a “T” in its Challenge Cup non-league tilt against East Providence High on what became a soggy Saturday afternoon.
In the final three quarters alone, the senior-junior rushing tandem of Jalen Evans and D’Andre Thomas accumulated a whopping 297 yards on 29 handles, and the Villa Novans sailed to a rather satisfying 21-0 victory before a crowd of perhaps 200 at Barry Field.
Evans closed with 139 yards and three touchdowns on 12 handles, while Thomas hustled for 158 yards on 17.
Those outings, coupled with a solid defensive outing, delivered Woonsocket a triumph to build on as it prepares to battle host Johnston at 7 p.m., Friday.
“I’d say we were disciplined somewhat, but we still have some things we need to clean up,” head coach Carnell Henderson stated matter-of-factly afterward. “We had some offsides penalties and some other mistakes, but – for the most part – we played fundamentally solid.
“I’m satisfied with the overall effort; they had tremendous effort and execution at certain parts of the game, and the energy they played with was terrific,” he added. “We’ve got some guys who were playing for the first time, and it was good to see them capitalize on their opportunities.”
As for his stellar rushers, Henderson noted, “Those are the unknowns. They were pretty much hurt all last year, and I know they’re looking ahead to the challenge of playing a complete season (together). They stepped it up (Saturday); we’re hoping they’ll be 100-percent healthy the rest of the way.”
Defensively, the Division II Villa Novans yielded the D-I Townies to only 28 yards on 12 rushes (over the last 36 minutes), and two signal callers – including junior John Costa and senior Jashaun Bennett – completed just five of 15 aerials for 59 yards, and were intercepted once.
Standouts included sophomore tackle Shawn Ingram and classmate Jaston Robinson, junior cornerback Will Andino, senior lineman Brian Cahill and junior Francisco Torres, to name just a quintet.
Three plays into the second quarter, Woonsocket quarterback Brett Bouchard fumbled at his own 40, senior tackle Benjamin Veiga recovering, and EP sophomore running back Trystan Casey’s 31-yard jaunt down the left sideline, gave the Townies a first-and-goal at the 9.
The ‘Novans eventually drove it to the 4, but sophomore Corey Resendes’ 21-yard field goal caromed off the crossbar. On the play, however, officials whistled a defender for roughing the kicker, giving EP a first-and-goal at the 2.
On fourth-and-goal at the one, though, Robinson downed Casey for a three-yard loss, and Woonsocket took over, but not for long.
After Thomas’ 24-yard hustle and an incomplete pass, Evans went off-left tackle, broke to the outside and ran untouched 72 yards for the initial score. John Poirier added the extra point.
With 1:27 left before the break, the Townies took advantage of Poirier’s six-yard punt, which gave them the pigskin at the Woonsocket 37, and maneuvered it to the 13. On a third-and-10 situation, however, sophomore Ralph Garcia intercepted, and quarterback Brett Bouchard ran out the clock.
The ‘Novans opened the third quarter with a five-play, 66-yard drive, that culminated by Evans’ 10-yard sweep around right end; that cushioned the lead at 14-0.
EP suffered a fumble on its next possession, and Woonsocket took over at the 26, though nothing came of it. But it did take advantage of the Townies’ second fumble at its own 20. Two snaps later, Evans raced six yards around right end – again untouched – and Poirier added his third PAT for the 21-0 lead.
Head coach Sandy Gorham’s bunch opened its next drive with a 15-yard kickoff return by senior Edwin Rivera and a 32-yard hustle by Casey, who later ran 13 more yards to take the ball to the 7. But a five-yard procedure penalty, an incomplete pass, a sack of Bennett and two more incompletions ended that threat.
The Townies had one more chance to score, this after another six-yard Poirier punt landed at the Woonsocket 39. Four plays after, that possession stalled with a dropped ball.
“At face value, and looking at the score, you’d think we’d be pretty discouraged,” Gorham offered after the tilt. “We had a TD called back because of a penalty (late in the first quarter, senior Joshua Rambert raced 53 yards down the left sideline for the TD, but it was negated due to an illegal block), , and we moved the ball down to the 3 but couldn’t push it in.
“We had our opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize,” he added. “It really wasn’t unexpected, as we’re a very young team searching for an identity, especially on offense. We’ve been working on a shotgun set, and we looked very slow out there. There’s still a decision to be made (with that philosophy).
“You’ve got to hand it to Woonsocket; they played very well defensively, and those two backs, especially Evans, can really move. They deserve a lot of credit.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Townies, who will host Foxboro in another non-league contest at 7 p.m., Friday at Pierce Field.