Wood River Junction – East Greenwich’s football team finished off a fine season with a 28-7 Black Friday victory at Chariho. It was all positives once DII runners-up EG went ahead with a late second-quarter score, as their offense put on a fun aerial show after shaking off some stiffness.
“We did not have any intensity at the beginning of the game,” Avenger head coach John George said. “It was shameful the way we played. We didn’t come ready to play, not physical, not what we teach, and not what we hope for.”
“I don’t know if they thought the ground was going to be hard or something,” George continued. “But we just didn’t come out the way we like to come out. We played much better in the second half, but those first two series were atrocious. Aside from the first two series, we moved the ball pretty well though.”
Due to the coldest Thanksgiving morning on record, the longstanding pre-meal tradition was broken up as the games were spread over the three-day weekend. The air was still frigid and the ground solid when EG and the Chargers got together at 10 a.m. on Friday morning. EG started stiff but thawed out in the rising temperatures. By their 12-point second half, they were delivering their usual brand of clean passing execution and play-making defense.
Junior quarterback Conrad Swanson was the MVP, going 16-for-32 for 261 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 2,2025 yards and a .540 percentage with 19 touchdowns on the season. He had one interception against the Chargers, which has been rare for the efficient lefthander.
“He makes good decisions,” George said of Swanson. “He’s got a good arm, and he’s athletic enough where he can tuck it and run; he’s a talented kid. Most of all, it’s that he makes good decisions; he’s thrown three interceptions all year [including the one against Chariho].”
“Up until the Super Bowl he’d only thrown one,” George continued. “And that’s a first-year starting quarterback; that’s amazing. I mean; we throw the ball a lot, 30 to 40 times a game. Physically, he’s got all the attributes, but it’s more mentally: for him to make the right decisions and not make mistakes as a first-year starter is terrific.”
At 9:52 in the second, Swanson hit sophomore Jack McMullen (five catches for 91 yards) on a crossing route for the game’s first touchdown. McMullen reached up to catch the ball in the middle of the defense then made a defender miss for the 20-yard score. The kick was no good, and EG went up 6-0.
The four-play drive was set up with an interception from junior Joey Allen.
Chariho responded with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a short dive from senior lineman Mike Phelps.
EG came back with another quick drive with Swanson going 5-of-7. McMullen caught a 20-yarder, and junior Matt Licciardi caught a nine-yard screen pass for a first down. Senior Jack Fox (five catches for 95 yards) caught his first of two touchdowns on a 17-yard corner pattern to the front right pylon. Fox got good separation and the pass was on point, making it 12-7 EG with 46 seconds to go.
McMullen picked off a pass, his team-leading tenth of the season, and EG’s second of the game. Swanson tossed his lone pick to Chariho junior John Haxton, and the half ended 12-7.
“At first we came out slow,” Swanson said. “It was cold at the start, and they were pushing us around a lot. As it warmed up and turned into a pretty good day for football, we put together some drives and put some points on the board.”
“It would have definitely hurt our pride a little bit,” Swanson said on the stakes for the game. “After what we accomplished over the whole season. It was good to get a win for the seniors and sent them off the right way.”
Swanson made it 20-7 in the third, scrambling 23 yards through the middle of the defense after seeing nothing downfield. Swanson completed to Josh Petteruti for the 2-point conversion.
Swanson connected with Fox for a 50-yard score, and Matt Licciardi ran in the conversion, giving EG their final points.
“I’m just trying to find the matchup that we find most effective,” Swanson said. “Jack Fox has been a good matchup all year and he continued that [against Chariho].”
“A lot of us have played together since youth football,” Swanson said. “So we’re always kind of on the same page. Matt Licciardi and I played for the North Kingstown Jaguars for our entire youth football, and we’ve just stuck together.”
Fox was given EG’s offensive award, while Swanson was given the overall game MVP.
McMullen was the most targeted on the season with 40 catches for 421 yards, a 10.53 yards-per-catch average. Fox had the most total receiving yards on the season with 685 on 38 catches, a 19-yard average. Sophomore Andrew Plympton was third in catches and yards with 22 for 359.
Senior Kevin Licciardi – who had four carries for 14 yards against the Chargers – led EG in rushing overall with 1,188 yards on 174 carries, a 6.83 average and 17 touchdowns. Swanson added 76 carries for 384 yards and seven running scores.
EG senior Levon Dakessian was EG’s lineman of the game, getting 10 tackles and a forced fumble on defense. Junior Jack Holmgren had 13 tackles and recovered the fumble. Matt Licciardi had 12 tackles.
Freshman Ryan MacCauley received EG’s special teams player award with four punts for 128 yards and only one 5-yard return. Allen, who added nine tackles and a deflection to his interception, was named EG’s defensive player of the game. Randall Realtors presented all of the awards; Chariho received offensive, defensive, lineman and special teams.
EG went 6-1 in D-II this season, with a 6-0 record at home. They won two playoff games on their way to the title game. Their only two losses this season came against Woonsocket. The first was a 44-13 loss at Barry Field in week four and the second came in the D-II Super Bowl, 37-13.
Woonsocket’s 2018-19 enrollment of over 1,600, puts them in D-I size-wise but considering their recent struggles they went down to D-II this season. EG, a school ranging from 750-760 in the last two years, finds it hard to compete with those numbers. Woonsocket may move up again, and with their returning underclassmen and only five seniors leaving, EG may be the favorite.