WEST GREENWICH – Neither injuries, nor penalties, nor a slow start could beset the Exeter-West Greenwich High School football team as their quest for Division IV perfection continued at home last Saturday as the Knights overcame everything stacked against them with a third quarter explosion that buried Smithfield, 35-6.
“It was a great team victory,” said Knights coach Jim Alves. “Everybody had contributions on offense, defense and special teams. Had a slow start, though. Penalties and defensive blown assignments, on offense we were a little rocky to start, kept them in the game. …But,I liked the way the kids finished and regrouped.”
A sloppy first half for both sides yielded a paltry seven points as Dwight Anderson’s rush for a score in the first quarter was the only offensive highlight either team could muster in the opening 24 minutes. The second half was a far different story, however, and the fireworks started right at the beginning as Smithfield attempted an onsides kick right out of the gate.
The Knights came up with the recovery and did not take long before making the Sentinels pay for the gamble. An 18 yard rush and 13 yard pass completion by Jacob Hornoff set up an easy touchdown run for Anderson from six yards out that put EWG up 14-0 just 1:57 into the half following the extra point conversion by Ian Geyer.
After a minimal kick-off return by Smithfield, the Knights defense blew the game wide open just three plays into the ensuing drive when Ryan Ricard picked off a Michael Cotoia pass attempted and returned it 25-yard for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 9:10 still to play in the third quarter.
The Knights defense came right back and forced a quick 3-and-out, giving their offense a short field to work with when they returned to the field. They struck quickly yet again, as Hornoff hit Geyer on a deep pass on the first play of the drive that went for 42 yards as the EWG receiver stumbled and went down just shy of the goal line. The drive ended one play later as Anderson punched in his third touchdown of the game.
“We made some defensive adjustments because they were hurting us on the front edge a little bit,” said Alves of his team’s third quarter spark. “Offensively, we found a couple plays that they were giving us and we were able to take advantage at the right time and right opportunity and Ryan Ricard’s pick-six interception was big. That was a huge momentum swing.”
The Sentinels were able to stem the bleeding as they chewed up nearly five minutes of the clock on their next drive, but a disastrous punt by Jordan Smith gave the Knights another short field after the Smithfield drive stalled.
Starting on their own 42, Alves put the ball in Andersons hands and the senior captain churned out 32 yards on four carries to set up a 16-yard catch and run from Hornoff to Geyer on a slant that went in for the final Knights’ touchdown of the contest at 11:46 of the third. Geyer added the extra point for good measure to cap a 28-point quarter and extend the Knights’ lead to 35-0.
A lengthy drive by the Sentinels that started with 14 seconds to play in the third quarter killed much of the fourth and resulted in Smithfield’s only points of the day, a two-yard touchdown run by Brendan Correira at 7:45, bringing the score to its final 35-6 following a missed two-point conversion, but the damage had already been done.
Another short kick setup a 1st-and-10 at the Smithfield 49 for the Knights with 4:11 to play. With the back-ups in and a more than comfortable lead, the Knights ran out the clock on their fourth win of the season, keeping them atop the Division IV standings.