By ERIC RUEB
CRANSTON – All the West Warwick football team needed Friday night was four good quarters; the result on the scoreboard meant less than how the team played in their season-opening, non-league game against Division I’s Cranston East.
The Wizards got both.
After going 3-7 last season, West Warwick was out to prove it is a much improved team; Friday against Cranston East, the Wizards were clearly the better team as their defense took the Thunderbolts’ running game completely out of the books and the offense played smart football in a 33-14 win.
“We’ve been preparing for this game. We wanted to come out because last year we didn’t do so good,” West Warwick linebacker Kyle Killay said. “We wanted to come out ready this time.”
“What the scores don’t tell you coming off previous season is the type of kids we have,” WW coach Shane Lagor said. “We have winners so we’re able to put guys in good positions to play and it was a good outcome for us.”
Playing a team like Cranston East put the Wizards in a win-win situation - a win over a D-I team looks good and would get people excited; a loss would be fine, because the Bolts do play in the state’s best division, so a West Warwick loss wouldn’t have been a shock.
Only thing was, no one told the Wizards it was OK to lose.
“We have a lot of returning seniors and we knew with our senior leadership and hard work we’ve put in practice, we can compete with any D-I or D-II team,” said West Warwick’s John Morrison, who scored on a 51-yard punt return in the first quarter and had a 26-yard touchdown catch in the fourth. “We knew coming into this week thinking we were going to win with confidence.”
The defense set the tone for the entire game.
With plenty of size up front to match Cranston East, West Warwick never allowed get past the first level. The Bolts have plenty of speed in the backfield, but none of their backs could get into a position to make tacklers miss; if they weren’t stuffed at the line of scrimmage by a couple of linemen, the Wizards’ linebackers – especially Killay, who had two tackles for loss in both of CE’s first two possessions – were there to stuff out the run.
“We came out wanting to hit,” Killay said. “Me and the other linebackers, we just wanted to hit and lay somebody out.”
Cranston East tried to balance make up for its lack of running by throwing the ball and it had success; quarterback Kyle Tracy was 11 of 16 for 151 yards, but most of those throws came after the Wizards had built up a two-score lead.
Offensively, it wasn’t a great night for West Warwick – but it was about as good as you could expect for a season opener.
The Wizards never had the atypical clock-killing, yard-eating drive; instead, they scored on either big plays or off turnovers. Last time anyone checked, those touchdowns count the same.
Of the four touchdown drives – the fifth score was the first of the game, a 51-yard punt return by Morrison – the longest came on the last one, but the four-play, 58-yard scoring drive was barely that. The touchdown came when Ross Coffua took a third-and-2 run up the left side for a 52-yard score that put the nail in the coffin.
What all four drives had in common was they were off turnovers. Up 6-0, West Warwick’s Domenic Bisceglio picked off a pass and ran out of room before being tackled at the 4-yard line and two players later, Bryan Gonzalez scored.
Up 14-6 in the third quarter, Tyler Gauvin forced a fumble that was recovered by Cesar Jiminez at the CE 26. Four plays later, Coffua scored on a 12-yard run. Cranston East’s Nick Buonfiglio couldn’t handle the squib kick, giving the ball back to West Warwick at the CE 46.
Eight plays in, Ryan O’Kelly hit Morrison on a fly pattern up the right side on a ball that couldn’t have been thrown any more perfect.
“I told my coach all game I have that fly pattern; just give it to me,” Morrison said. “He couldn’t have given me a better ball.”
“We knew what we’ve been capable of and we saw that tonight,” Lagor said. “… We’ve got a lot of weapons ... and today we got a lot more guys involved and we can be dangerous when we do that.”
The win should propel West Warwick into the state’s top 10 rankings this week and will open a lot of eyes with Division II play coming up Friday.
More importantly, the win opens the Wizards’ eyes and shows them just how good they can be.
“I think we definitely needed a confidence booster. I’m even surprised with the 33 points we put up today,” Lagor said. “The guys, they came off a 3-7 season last year, but they’re loving football right now. Nobody’s late to practice, everybody’s executing and coming together really nicely. I never said anything about it, but they’re shouting family at the end and that’s what it’s about.”
West Warwick 6 8 0 19 - 33
Cranston East 0 0 6 8 - 14
WW-John Morrison 51 punt return (run fails), 3:36
WW-Bryan Gonzalez 2 run (Ryan Lawton from Ryan O’Kelly), 1:49
CE- Marven Beauvais 14 pass from Kyle Tracy (kick fails), 4:41
WW-Ross Coffua 12 run (pass fails), 9:22
WW-Morrison 26 pass from O’Kelly (Chris Duarte kick), 5:18
WW-Coffua 52 run (kick fails), 1:26
CE-Beauvais 60 pass from Duarte (Kyle Whitney from Tracy), :32.
First downs 10 6
Rushes-yards 39-139 21-2
Pass comp-att-int 6-12-0 11-16-1
Pass yards 90 151
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
RUSHING: West Warwick – Ross Coffua 14-102; Bryan Gonzalez 10-33; Kyle Killay 3-11, John Morrison 2-4; Team 2-(-3); Ryan O’Kelly 8-(-11). Cranston East – E.J. Isom 8-26; Stalin Mejia 2-2; Nathaniel Isom 3-0; Jabari Alves 3-(-1); Kyle Tracy 5-(-25).
PASSING: O’Kelly 6-12-90. Cranston East – Tracy 11-16-151, INT, 2 TD.
RECEIVING: West Warwick - Morrison 2-42; Ryan Lawton 3-37; Zach Deschane 1-11. Cranston East – Marven Beauvais 3-81, 2 TDs; E.J. Isom 3-49; Nick Ferry 2-14; Mejia 1-9; Brian Tran 1-7; Angel Camilo 1-5.