EAST GREENWICH – In the end the score looked much like one would expect with a reigning Division III runner-up taking on team that finished below .500 a year ago in Division IV
But looks can be deceiving.
That was the case last Friday night as the teams from East Greenwich and Exeter-West Greenwich took to Carcieri Field for an inter-divisional contest to open their 2013 seasons. Through the first three quarters, the Avengers and the Scarlet Knights were locked up in a tight battle until a pair of interceptions broke the game open, propelling East Greenwich to a 34-17 win.
“It’s nice to win, but we have to get better on both sides of the ball,” said East Greenwich coach John George. “We didn’t have a great week of practice. When the weather got hot and humid, we didn’t have a lot of energy and it’s tough, but you have to fight through that. I told them last week, if you can’t overcome the weather and things like that and come ready to practice everyday, you can’t expect to overcome things during the game. A bad call, a turnover, something like that.
“…We had some plays out there that we just didn’t make tonight.”
The game started slowly for both teams as the Avenger and Scarlet Knight offenses stalled on each of their two first quarter possession, all of which resulted in punts.
The Avengers offense found its stride, however, on the opening drive of the second quarter. After receiving the punt, on first-and-10 EG quarterback Andrew Miner hit Mike Massella on a screen pass that went for a big gain deep into EWG territory, setting up an eventual 16-yard touchdown pass from Miner to Cam Rocke and 7-0 East Greenwich lead.
While the Avengers struck quickly for their first points of the game, the Knights pounded things out on the ensuing drive, chewing up much of the second quarter clock. Though they had the Avengers reeling, as would become a theme throughout the night, costly penalties stopped the Knights from getting into the end zone as EWG settled for a 37-yard field goal by Ian Geyer.
“I thought our kids showed pretty good resiliency and effort,” said Knights coach Jim Alves. “They played the entire game, but we hit the Bermuda Triangle. We had penalties, turnovers and injuries.
“[East Greenwich] made plays. They played a squeaky-clean game. No penalties, no turnovers and we quintupled whatever they did as far as penalties and turnovers. At any level of football, you’re going to lose more than win when you have more penalties and turnovers than your opponent.”
The Avengers did not waste anytime responding. Rocke took the ensuing kickoff back 47 yards to once again get EG deep into the EWG side of the field. A few plays later EG running back Carney Crawford carried it 23 yards for the first of his three touchdowns on the day, making it 14-3, where the score remained until halftime.
A pair of fruitless drives started the half before the Knights struck first in the second to get themselves back to within three at 14-11. After starting their drive with excellent field position on the East Greenwich 42, the Knights nearly let the opportunity slip away, but Matt Ricard was able to hit Jacob Hornoff on a deep bomb on fourth-and-nine from around midfield that set up a first-and-goal. Three plays later on third-and-goal from the one, Hornoff was able to punch it in on a quarterback keeper before hitting Dustin VanLuven for the two-point conversion.
As they had with EWG’s first score, EG responded right away, marching down the field on the very next drive with Crawford again going in for the touchdown, this time from three yards out, to make it 21-11 after the successful point after by Brett Estes.
“I think that’s a direct reflection of some of the guys who have played a lot,” George said. “We never lost our composure, I was really happy with that.
“A couple times we went three-and-out and our drive stalled, but when they scored we came back and answered right away. I think that’s having a veteran team and good leadership.”
From there things went from bad to worse for the Knights.
Getting the ball back with less than a minute to go in the third quarter, Ricard bobbled the snap on the opening play of the drive, which went nowhere. On the next play, the last of the quarter, Massella picked off Hornoff and returned it 36 yards to the EWG 19.
After a two play drive that resulted in Crawford’s third touchdown of the night and a 27-11 EG lead after Estes missed the extra point, the Knights looked like they were going to be able to put the interception behind them and get right back into the contest. They marched right back down the field on the ensuing drive, highlighted by a 46-yard pass from Hornoff to Geyer that set up a first-and-goal from the five.
With momentum swinging back in the Knights direction, on third-and-goal, Crawford quashed any rally, picking off a pass from Ricard on the goal line and returning it 86 yards to effectively put the game away.
“It was a tight game until then, until Mike’s pick and then Carney’s pick,” George said. “I think that was the edge we had on those guys. I thought our skill guys were a little bit better and they made some plays.”
The teams traded touchdowns on the final two drives of the game to bring the score to its final 34-17. For East Greenwich, it was a win that was resilient in nature, which showed their big play capabilities, but still left plenty for the Avengers to work on as they move into their Division III schedule. For the Knights, it was a good test playing up a division to set the tone for what is hopefully a bounce back season following a down 2012.
With the opener behind them, both teams now delve into their divisional schedules as both teams go on the road this coming Saturday for a pair of noon kick-offs. East Greenwich will open their Division III schedule against Ponaganset High School, while Exeter-West Greenwich will head to Providence to face the PCD-Wheeler-Juanita Sanchez Co-op in Division IV action.