CUMBERLAND – Mercy!
It was yet another Big Blue blowout in a season that has pointed in one direction – the Division II Super Bowl. An appearance in the title game is officially in Cumberland High’s line of sight after Wednesday night’s 48-14 romp against West Warwick High in semifinal-round action at frigid Tucker Field.
All that separates Cumberland from capturing the school’s first-ever undisputed Super Bowl championship is a 48-minute showdown with Thanksgiving rival Woonsocket. The two neighboring schools will meet Sunday at East Greenwich’s Carcieri Field, a rematch the Villa Novans hope will be more competitive than the 32-0 whitewashing that the Clippers notched last Thursday.
Cumberland’s last appearance in the big game was 2004. Though Tolman won the contest, 20-19, it was the Clippers who were awarded the Division II title after it was learned that the Tigers had used an ineligible player.
Putting truth to the notion that “football is a team sport,” Cumberland received multiple touchdown games from Mitchell Baxter, Joe Fine and Dan Stock, while the defense picked off West Warwick quarterback Kody Greenhalgh three times in the first half. To reiterate a point that has been hammered home countless times already, the Clippers are a tough-to-slow-down unit that doesn’t count on just one person to carry the day.
“When you have a team like this, you’re blessed,” said Cumberland head coach Chris Skurka, his crew now 10-0 against Division II competition, a blemish-free mark that includes the regular season, playoffs and non-leaguers. “I’ve never coached a group of guys where no one cares about who gets the credit. They are all about each other and they play that way.
“(The seniors) are the first group of kids that I had during my first year as head coach, so it’s real special that we have the chance to win the championship” continued Skurka, who took over at Cumberland in 2009.
There was some early drama in this one, as West Warwick got on the scoreboard with 50 seconds gone by in the second quarter, a 45-yard completion between Greenhalgh and Trevor Lawton setting up a five-yard score by Ross Coffua. Just like that, the Clippers’ 14-0 advantage was reduced to 14-6.
What ensued was a clinic in how to make the final two quarters of a playoff game totally irrelevant. Right after the Wizards broke through, Baxter ran the kickoff back 60 yards for another six points for the home team. A three-and-out by West Warwick put Cumberland’s offense back on display, as Stock jumpstarted things with a 37-yard gallop that brought the action down to the West Warwick 11-yard line.
Erik Travers took care of the remaining 11 yards, his pay dirt run covering four yards. Travers finished with 72 yards on 10 carries while Stock added 95 yards on four handoffs.
“We answered right away (after West Warwick scored) and that’s been the story of this team the whole year,” said Skurka.
West Warwick’s descent into the abyss continued when Austin Paygai coughed up the ball on the kickoff. Cumberland’s Jared Talbert pounced on the loose pigskin, with the Clippers assuming control at their opponent’s 7. The short field resulted in a one-play drive with Stock doing the honors.
Another West Warwick turnover resulted in Cumberland finding the end zone for the fourth time in the second quarter. Three straight completions by quarterback Brendan Guerin covered 68 yards – 45 of which went in the direction of Trent Vasey on two plays. Fine barreled his way in from eight yards out as West Warwick trudged off the field at halftime down 41-8.
Even though the outcome had long been decided, the Clippers continued to keep their foot on the pedal. Stock added his second touchdown of the game, a 50-yarder, with 3:14 to go in the third quarter to ice the game and send the Wizards home for the 2012 season.
“We had the ability to run and throw the ball when we wanted to, but it’s a credit to the kids and my coaches just doing an outstanding job,” said Skurka. “It’s been fantastic so far.”
The game was scoreless midway through the first quarter when Cumberland dialed up a blitz, which forced Greenhalgh to overthrow his intended target. Baxter was there at the Wizard 35-yard-line for the interception and took it to the house for the touchdown, putting Cumberland up 7-0.
All told, West Warwick coughed up the ball five times.
“(West Warwick) is a good passing team, so we had some different coverage looks that we put in,” said Skurka. “The kids came up big again.”
If Cumberland can come up big one more time, then Skurka & Co. will be known as Division II champs for the 2012 campaign.