EAST GREENWICH – East Greenwich’s football coaches had to review and reorder most of their skill positions over the offseason, and head coach John George’s concerns were assuaged after Friday night’s 35-6 home-opening non-league win over Coventry.
“Our quarterback, our top receivers all left,” George said. “[Andrew] Licciardi was a good receiver; he graduated. This kid Grant Driscoll didn’t come back to football. So, I was really happy seeing some young guys step up: Andrew Plympton and Jack McMullen made some nice catches. Jack Fox, who’s in his first year playing football, made some big plays.”
“It’s always a concern with a quarterback’s first start,” George said. “There’s always a learning curve on that, so I was happy with how Conrad played and some of the things he did.”
The young Avengers stalled a bit in their initial couple of drives at Nick Carcieri Field, but they were up 21-0 by early in the third quarter.
Junior Conrad Swanson took over the starting quarterback spot for Andrew Blessing, a two-year starter and captain who threw for 4,520 yards and 54 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Swanson –a multi-sport athlete and jayvee starting play-caller for the past two seasons – executed EG’s offense to in his first varsity start. Swanson completed 15 passes on 29 attempts, throwing for 278 yards with one passing touchdown and no turnovers. He also added 37 yards on the ground.
“It wasn’t perfect, obviously,” George said of Swanson’s first start. “But he did a really good job. He made a lot of good decisions and made a lot of nice plays. It was a good start.”
“He’s played football a long time,” George continued. “He was behind Blessing for two years, which has been terrific, as he had a chance to learn from him.”
“Like I told the guys,” George continued, referring to the young receivers and backs stepping in. “When there are plays to be made – if you can make those plays, you’ve got a good chance to win. I was really happy with how those young guys stepped up.”
Plympton led the way with four catches for 94 yards and the one touchdown. Junior Jack Fox had two catches for 82 yards. Senior John Anderson had four catches for 49 yards. Sophomore Jack McMullen had two for 35, and sophomore Josh Petteruti caught one for 11 yards. McMullen was also 5-for-5 on extra point conversions.
In the running game, senior Kevin Licciardi did the bulk of the work, getting 19 carries for 104 yards, a 5.8 average. Junior Matt Licciardi had five carries for 16 yards and also led the defense with seven tackles.
Oaker sophomore quarterback Will Turner threw for 89 yards and two interceptions, connecting on 13 of 33 attempts. The Oakers combined to rush for 116 yards on 27 carries, a 4.3 yards a carry average; EG went for 157 on 28 attempts.
Oaker freshman running back Nicholas Carpinello rushed for 110 yards and punched in Coventry’s only score from four yards out with around seven minutes to go in the game, making it 28-6 EG. EG outgained the Oakers 435 to 205 in total yards, and they got 23 first downs compared to Coventry’s 19.
EG scored first on a 23-yard pass from Swanson to Plympton. Kevin Licciardi ran from 10 yards out and later ran in for a two-yard score that made it 28-0. In between, Swanson and Matt Licciardi each ran in four-yard touchdowns.
“I was concerned about our defense,” George continued, about early season concerns. “And if we were stout enough up front, and they really played well.”
“Jack McMullen had that nice pick,” George continued. “Petteruti had another. I was very happy with their effort.”
Petteruti also had five tackles and four assists.
“We kind of gave them a short field,” George said of Coventry’s one score. “By giving up that blocked punt, but the defense was good, very physical. They started off kind of slow and gave up some big plays, but they settled down.”
The Oakers went 0-7 in D-II B last year, and EG went 5-2 in D-II A, two years removed from winning the D-III title in 2015 and moving up. The Oakers went 2-5 in D-II A that season.
This year, EG is in D-II A along with Classical, Johnston, Lincoln, Rogers, West Warwick, and Woonsocket. D-II B consists of Burrillville, Coventry, Juanita Sanchez/Providence Country Day/Wheeler Co-op, Middletown, Mt. Hope, Mt. Pleasant, Westerly.
“I look at our schedule,” George said. “And there is no easy game. We’re right where we should be, and it’s going to be a battle every week. It’s a good division.”