WEST WARWICK — Football is looked upon as the ultimate team sport. You can’t do your job correctly unless the person lined up next to you does his. Everyone must be on the same page.
Sometimes, though, there are individuals that are so crucial to a team’s vitality, their influence so great, that you start recalibrating expectations – if Player X isn’t his usual spectacular self, chances are the team will find itself running in quicksand. After all, there’s a reason why he’s viewed as the straw that stirs the drink.
You could make a compelling case that as Charles Correa goes, so goes St. Raphael Academy. The senior playmaker is such a threat to find the end zone from any point on the field that opposing teams must keep extra vigilance in terms of where he lines up. That’s the M.O. when you’re a running, receiving and return threat like Correa.
Fully aware of Correa’s multifaceted approach, West Warwick went into Saturday’s Division II-B clash at Maznicki Field seeking to cut off SRA’s main power source. Of course game planning to corral Correa and going out and actually executing are two incredibly different beasts, yet the Wizards were able to silence Correa to the point that someone else on the Saints’ sideline needed to step to the forefront.
The cavalry never arrived, hence why West Warwick rolled to a 36-14 final.
Correa did have his moments, though not nearly as many as he did in last year’s game at West Warwick, when he scored two rushing touchdowns covering 52 and 48 yards, recorded a one-handed interception and made several keep-the-chains-moving catches. In Saturday’s rematch, Correa made two notable receptions while finding daylight between the right tackle and guard for a third-quarter score covering 27 yards.
Other than those instances, the Wizards succeeded in limiting Correa’s field-stretching abilities. It was a total team effort that featured West Warwick junior Austin Paygai along with a supporting cast that rotated on a snap-by-snap basis, as it was rare to see Correa roaming down the field without a pair of defenders in his vicinity. From a defensive standpoint, Correa was not out there much while his impact in the return game was barely noticeable.
“They did a great job of changing it up,” was the tip of the cap extended by St. Raphael head coach Mike Sassi regarding the blanket West Warwick threw on Correa. “Sometimes they were in his face, sometimes they were off and sometimes they had a guy out in front of him and another person playing over the top. Their safety was cheating over a lot.
“We need to take advantage when he’s getting doubled like that.”
Combating West Warwick’s choice of tactics with someone other than Correa proved a major chore for Sassi and his St. Raphael assistants. First-year quarterback Emmanuel Leake was picked off three times in the fourth quarter alone, one of which the Wizards ran back for a score that resulted in a 22-point cushion with 7:54 remaining.
SRA led 8-6 heading into the second quarter after answering West Warwick’s initial score with a five-yard plunge by Chris Ventura and a two-point run by Colby Kingsbury, capping off what was a nine-play, 44-yard drive.
The second 12-minute interval belonged to the Wizards. Offensively the Saints snapped the ball just seven times for exactly four yards. On the flip side, West Warwick (3-0, 2-0 II-B) ran 18 plays for 125 yards on its way to compiling 22 points.
What happened was that the Wizards dominated the Saints’ four-man defensive front. A strong, solid push at the initial point of contact allowed West Warwick’s cadre of runners to rip off sizable gains. That left it up to SRA’s linebacking corps, which proved unable to haul any W.W. ball carrier down until after the damage had already been done.
St. Raphael tried to mix its coverage up front, flashing a two-man linemen set at one point during the second quarter. Seeing what the defense was offering, Wizards quarterback Kody Greenhalgh took off for 12 yards.
“We weren’t attacking the way we should be on defense,” summed up Sassi. “When we made plays, it was after four or five yards.”
Things got a little better in the third quarter as SRA’s defense tightened up, holding West Warwick scoreless and to a pair of three-and-outs. Correa’s score allowed SRA to head into the fourth quarter with a manageable deficit to make up, but three turnovers in the span of five snaps doomed any chance of a miracle finish.
Now 1-1 in league action, the Saints turn their attention to Friday’s contest at Pariseau Field against unbeaten Cumberland, knowing full well that the Clippers will try to take Correa out of the picture in the same fashion West Warwick did. Speaking of the Wizards, their next game is Friday at Max Read Field against Shea.