WOOD RIVER JCT.—Upon first glance, the Coventry football team’s offensive and defensive line doesn’t have the type of size that strikes fear into the opposition.
What the Oakers lack in stature they more than made up for in ferocity Friday night as the Coventry line – led by senior captains Steven Felkel, Chris Hebert and Tyler Willet – led the way to a 28-0 rout of the Chargers.
“I give my guys a lot of credit, they showed up and answered the bell,” Coventry coach Gerry Zannella said. “…O-line they’re my boys, those are my guys. We take pride in what we do up front. They work very, very hard up front.
“They’re not big guys, they’re not the biggest group on earth but they take a lot of pride in what they do. They want to do it well, they’re based in technique and they strive to execute each and every play.”
“Essentially they just took it to us,” Chariho coach Mike Kelly said. “It’d be nice to say, ‘oh well, it was a couple big plays,’ but it wasn’t. If it was that it’s alright, we can work on it, we made a mistake we’ll fix it but they outperformed us tonight and that’s just the fact.”
“As coaches if we’re going to have something that we need to fix better to find out what it is now and we’ll go to work and see what we can do with it. Our kids played hard, it wasn’t lack of effort or anything like that but they’re good. We knew coming in they had some weapons and they had a lot of them.”
Running backs Mike Nolan, Jose Santos and Silvio Antonelli were the main beneficiaries of the play of the offensive line as the duo gained yards on the ground in bunches early and often.
Within the first eight minutes of the game the Oakers built a 14-0 lead thanks to a four-yard touchdown run from Nolan and a 13-yarder by Antonelli.
Coventry then forced Chariho into a three-and-out, which it once again took advantage of on the ensuing offensive possession.
The Oakers put together an 11-play drive that took a little more than five minutes off the clock as quarterback Joe Foley capped off the drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Santos on a 3rd-and-12 to put Coventry ahead 21-0 after the Eric Rasieleski point after try was good.
Foley didn’t throw the ball a ton Friday but when he had to the first-year junior quarterback proved to be effective.
“We didn’t call his number a lot,” Zannella said. “We got out to the early lead, we wanted to keep the ball on the ground and use the clock to our advantage.
“…When he did throw it he put it there and they were big plays.”
From there the Chargers continued to struggle to move the ball – picking up just two first downs on two possessions in the final eight minutes – as the Oakers led 21-0 at the break.
The first two possessions of the second half proved fruitless for both team but – after a third empty Chariho possession to start the half – Coventry broke through for the game’s final score.
After a three-yard run from Nolan on first down, Santos strung together runs of 26 and 21 yards for his second touchdown of the day and a 28-0 Oaker lead after three quarters.
Heading into Friday’s game Zannella wasn’t entirely sure how things would play out but knew after his team gave up 43 points to both North Kingstown and Division I Cranston East in the preseason that they needed to get better on defense.
“I was sick all week. I was nervous. I didn’t know what team would show up and I’m so pleased for these guys,” Zannella said. “They worked so hard over the course of the week and they really wanted it.
“…We had to improve defensively. Our first two showings defensively were not good and we had to get better fundamental defense, getting off of blocks, making tackles, getting lined up right, getting our coverages and it finally came together tonight.”
The Chargers, meanwhile, did manage to move the ball in spots but could not find a way to sustain drives.
In a drive that began at its own 20-yard line with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter Sal DeSantis rumbled his way for an 11-yard gain on first down and – after a four-yard gain from Jake Whan – picked up another gain of 12 yards.
The Chargers made their way to Coventry’s side of midfield after two short runs from quarterback Jacob Rousseau and DeSantis but the drive stalled when Rousseau was dropped for a nine-yard loss on third down.
The next time Chariho touched the ball the drive once again started out promising as Jake LaMotte rushed for 13 yards on first down. LaMotte was on his way to another solid run on the ensuing play but unfortunately for the Chargers he lost the ball at the end of the play and Coventry recovered.
“We were having problems up front. They did a real good job of establishing the line of scrimmage so everything or backs had to get they had to earn,” Kelly said. “[There were] not a real lot of open holes for them to hit and we tried to throw a little bit more and that’s a developing thing for us.”
While it is hard to find too much positive in a 28-0 loss, the Chargers did show that they have players capable of moving the ball.
Chariho will see if it can put it all together in a big rivalry game Friday night at 7 p.m. as the Chargers will host Westerly.