COVENTRY—For the first 20 seconds it appeared as if the Pilgrim football team would have a shot of hanging with Coventry Friday night.
Just 47 seconds later, the Oakers put the lowly Patriots in their place as Michael Nolan’s 44-yard touchdown run opened the flood gates on a 40-6 Coventry victory.
Pilgrim’s Owen Kelly broke free on the first play from scrimmage for a 75-yard touchdown scamper to give the Patriots a 6-0 lead 20 seconds in after the two-point conversion failed.
“We missed a tackle. We lost leverage and they hit a seam. It’s plays like that that have been our nemesis,” Coventry coach Gerry Zannella said.
“There’s commandments for the defense that you have to do; you have to line up properly, you have to get off the ball properly, you have attack a block, you have to defeat a block, you have to purse the ball and then you have to get there and make the play.
“When there’s a problem in those commandments then you’re apt to give up a big play and that’s what happened.
“Everything was there and we just didn’t make the tackle. Our angles were bad, our technique wasn’t good and they were able to crack a seam on us.”
From there, however, it was all Oakers.
Senior Michael Nolan picked up four yards on first down on a drive beginning at the Pilgrim 48-yard line and one play later took it to the house to give Coventry a 7-6 lead 1:07 in after Eric Rasieleski’s extra point.
The Patriots went three-and-out on their ensuing drive and once against the Oakers wasted little time to strike again after a short punt gave them the ball at Pilgrim’s 39-yard line.
Jose Santos broke free for 23 yards on first down and – after two short runs by Nolan – finished the drive off himself with a seven-yard scoring run to put Coventry up 14-6 with eight minutes to go in the opening quarter.
“What you see is what we are,” Zannella said. “That’s what we do and we’re pretty good at it.”
After Kelly’s initial burst the Patriot’s offense was pretty much non-existent, netting just one yard for the remainder of the half.
Nolan had a huge opening 24 minutes for the Oakers, rushing 12 times for 164 yards and four touchdowns, while Santos picked up 65 yards on the ground and Silvio Antonelli racked up 59 all-purpose yards.
“Mike’s an outstanding player. He’s been an outstanding player for us for years here. Him playing well is expected, it’s never a surprise,” Zannella said.
“He’s that type of guy who prepares hard, he works hard in the offseason, we expect nothing but the best from Mike and he continues to give it to us each and every week.”
Coventry rounded out its scoring just 71 seconds into the third quarter as Cory Terilli rushed for a 28-yard score in what was a battle between the two teams junior varsity in the second half.
While Friday night’s game was a cakewalk for the Oakers, it won’t be that easy for Coventry the rest of the season.
Whether or not the Oakers make the playoffs will be decided in the next two weeks as they will host Mt. Hope Friday at 7 p.m. and the following week will travel to take on Westerly.
All three schools are 2-2 in Division II-A and with back-to-back wins Coventry would secure itself at least a 4-3 record but more importantly the tiebreaker over the both the Huskies and Bulldogs.
If not, the Oakers will enter the final week of the regular season with the unenviable task of needing to get a win against unbeaten Woonsocket at home Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. and some help.
“The last three league games are huge for us and all three of them are stiff,” Zannella said. “They’re all good football teams – Mt. Hope, Westerly and Woonsocket – I mean they’re all different, some are bigger than others, some are faster than others but that’s where it’s going to come down.”