WEST WARWICK - The possible dawn of a new era unfolded at Maznicki Field on a blustery and chilly Thursday morning as the Coventry High School Oakers and West Warwick Wizards went up against one another in the latest installment of the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic. Having snapped a 13-game slide in the Turkey Day showdown with a 22-16 win in last year’s game, Coventry set out to prove that 2018 was no fluke, but rather the standard by which the latest chapter of the rivalry should be viewed.
With a hearty group of fans there to cheer them on in the visitors’ section of the bleachers, the Oakers did not disappoint, rolling to a 35-0 victory in a game that featured most of its action in the first half.
The win for Coventry marked the first time since 1992 that the school had won back-to-back games against the Wizards, though West Warwick still holds a significant edge in the all-time series with a 45-11-2 mark. Coventry had not won as a visiting team since 2004 when they steamrolled their way to a 46-6 victory on the Wizards’ home turf only to then get beaten every year since then up until 2018.
As for Thursday’s game, a five-touchdown effort proved to be more than enough support for the Oaker defense which held West Warwick scoreless all game for the first time since 1996. Neither side had blanked the other since 2010 when West Warwick won 19-0, marking their third shut out victory against their Kent County rivals in a five-year span.
Senior Tommy McCarthy led the way on offense this year, catching a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Will Turner while running for another, all part of a game he will remember for years to come.
“Man, it was awesome,” he said. “It was the first time I’ve ever scored more than one touchdown in a game.”
Shawn Nolan and Nick Carpinello accounted for the other two scores, with Nolan’s six-yard run getting Coventry on the board in the final seconds of the opening quarter before Carpinello’s 48-yard scoring run helped to put the game to rest late in he third.
“Our guys came out here, they competed, they wanted it,” head coach Stanley Dunbar, now 2-0 against the Wizards in his coaching career said after the win. “Hats off to West Warwick though. That’s a young team and they came out here and fought hard.”
The opening quarter nearly ended in a scoreless tie, but a late drive by the visitors, set up by a 39-yard catch from Carpinello and a 30-yard run from McCarthy led to Nolan’s one-yard score a short time later.
From there, McCarthy was the primary source of offense, scoring three times in the second quarter to help give the Oakers a 28-0 lead by the half. The senior wide receiver caught a 28-yard touchdown pass as well as a 42-yard one with a seven-yard score on the ground coming in between.
“Tommy made a lot of things happen after the catch,” Dunbar said. “He’s a dynamic player, definitely going to be hard to replace him as a senior. I think he has the ability to go on to play college football if he wants to.”
For McCarthy, there was no better way to cap his high school career than to help lead his team to a Thanksgiving Day win against their bitter rivals, especially after his own team had managed just a 2-7 record on the season headed into the game.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “When I was a little kid, I was like ‘When I come up here, I’m going to beat them (West Warwick), I’m going to turn this around and I did,” he said.
A 48-yard touchdown run by Nick Carpinello served as the only offense from either side in the second half as the running clock quickly gave way to the season’s conclusion.
“Nice way to finish off the season,” Dunbar said. “We lose some key guys, but a lot of these guys will be back next year, so wins like these are the types of wins you try to build off of going into next year. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of momentum going into next season.”
For the Wizards (1-8), the entire 2019 season has been a rebuilding one for a roster comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores.
“It hurt last year, it hurt this year, especially against a rival,” head coach Dave Caito said of the loss, but credited his team for giving everything they had, just as they do each game week in an week out.
“We’re proud of our guys though. In the second half, they only gave up one touchdown,” he said, noting that Coventry stuck with their starting players for most of the third and fourth quarters.
From here forward, the focus will be on the 2020 season as well as next year’s matchup with the Oakers in which the Wizards look to tilt the rivalry back in their favor.
“We have 365 days to get ready for it,” said Caito.
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick