CUMBERLAND – How do you spell dominance? Try C-U-M-B-E-R-L-A-N-D on for size.
Cumberland kicked off its Division II playoff mission in emphatic fashion Friday evening, the Clippers’ 41-6 conquest of Westerly made possible by the usual cast of stellar performers. Erik Travers rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown while quarterback Brendan Guerin passed for two scores. Not to be outdone, Mitchell Baxter recorded two interceptions while teammates Joe Fine and Dan Stock also found the end zone.
“We’ve had the same theme all year with one guy stepping up one week with another guy stepping up the following week,” stated Cumberland head coach Chris Skurka. “Now we’re clicking on all cylinders.”
The quarterfinal-round triumph means the Clippers have something to look forward to, as they’ll advance to play the survivor of Saturday night’s Mount Hope-West Warwick clash when the semifinals take place the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.
Cumberland, the top seed in II-B, raced out to a commanding 27-0 lead at halftime. Twenty one of those points materialized in the second quarter as the Clippers all but lost sight of the Bulldogs by the time the second half kicked off. In fact, the roof completely caved in for Westerly during the final four minutes leading up to halftime.
Already up 13-0, Guerin fired a quick strike to Tom Lazaras that in no time turned into a 55-yard scoring play. Catching the ball right in front of Westerly’s bench, Lazaras turned on the afterburners on his way to safely navigating down the far sideline.
A quick three-and-out by the Bulldogs’ offense allowed the Clippers one final crack with 22 seconds remaining. With 1.1 seconds flashing on Tucker Field’s scoreboard, Guerin found Stock across the middle, with Stock gathering a full head of steam on his way to carrying the action down to the Bulldogs’ 20.
It appeared that Stock was down and the half would be over, but the ball squirted free. Not hearing a whistle, center Jake Gaboury picked up the live ball and rumbled the remaining 20 yards for an ultra-rare TD for an offensive lineman.
If Westerly had any hope of staging a second-half comeback, Gaboury’s score was akin to getting doused with cold water.
“We work a lot on the two-minute drill during practice and go through numerous situations,” Skurka said. “It just so happened that we got a lucky bounce and sometimes when things go your way, they all go your way. The ball bounced right back to Jake and he scored.”
The Clippers’ high-octane machine revved up again in the third quarter, needing all of two plays to find the end zone and pin the Bulldogs in a 34-0 hole. This particular scoring drive required just two plays with Travers ripping off a 45-yard run before plunging in from a yard out.
The lead was extended to 41-0 when Guerin a perfect 10-yard strike to Trent Vasey. Westerly spoiled Cumberland’s shutout bid when quarterback Phil Lynch completed a 53-yard, catch-and-run to Clayton Minnich.
The Clippers’ initial possession was highlighted by two key pickups on fourth down, the second one resulting in Fine performing a slight cutback move before barreling in for a one-yard score.
Cumberland kept the chains moving on its next offensive series, converting on two third downs and a fourth-and-one that saw Fine get the call. The 15-play drive was capped by a one-yard run by Stock.
Skurka rewarded the players by giving them off until next Tuesday, which is when the work for holiday foe Woonsocket will begin.
“I told the kids that Woonsocket is a playoff team, so it’s a playoff game,” said Skurka.