Bulldogs face tough challenge in Division I Townies

Bulldogs face tough challenge in Division I Townies

The Westerly Sun

Westerly High’s football team faces a different breed of winless team this week.

After handling winless Toll Gate, 40-14, last weekend, the Bulldogs face another squad in search of its initial victory.

Bulldog coach Chris Wriedt, though, is assured that his team won’t take the next winless opponent lightly Saturday when Westerly plays a “home” game against 0-5 East Providence at 7 p.m. at Stonington High.

It won’t take much of a history lesson to convince the Bulldogs (2-3, 2-2 Division II-A) that the Division I Townies can beat them. Last season, Westerly was 4-1 heading into its sixth game and lost 21-7 to East Providence, which was also winless coming into the game.

“They’re big, athletic and have very good skill people,” Wriedt said. “Anyone who plays in Division I is there for a reason — they’re good. If we’re not on our toes, the same scenario that we faced last year will repeat itself.”

Westerly enters on a mini-roll, sandwiching dominating wins over Chariho and Toll Gate around a competitive 12-7 loss to undefeated Woonsocket, the Division II-A leader.

East Providence also gave Woonsocket a test in a 26-21 loss. The Townies have also lost to Barrington (42-21), Mt. Pleasant (40-20), Bishop Hendricken (38-7) and Cranston East (48-12). The Townies feature two quick backs in Tryston Casey (455 yards, 5 TDs) and Austin Baptista (360 yards, 3 TDs). Baptista ran for 108 against Westerly last season.

Wriedt enjoys gauging his team’s strength against upper-division teams.

“It’s important to play Division I teams,” he said. “I’m in favor of it because our kids need exposure against that kind of competition.”

The Bulldogs are starting to integrate more contributors offensively to complement the 1-2 combination of fullback Tom McGuire (263 yards, 3 TDs) and halfback Clayton Minnich (229 yards, 4 TDs, nine catches for 97 yards). Sophomore wingback Jacee Hamelin and senior back Drew Widdifield each scored two touchdowns against Toll Gate last week.

“Minnich, McGuire and Hamelin start both ways, so when someone like Widdifield steps up, that’s a positive,” Wriedt said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to get contributions from him and others to give us more options.”

Westerly looks to keep its positive streak going heading into its final stretch of games against Division II-A teams. Behind Woonsocket in the eight-team Division II-A are Johnston and Warwick Vets at 3-1. Coventry, Mt. Hope and Westerly are each 2-2 with Chariho and Toll Gate in last place both at 0-4.

“We’ve progressed quite a bit from our first two games and are a much better team now,” Wriedt said. “Hopefully, that continues so we can be the best we can be with Veterans, Coventry and Johnston coming up as we shoot to make the playoffs.”

Stonington at Woodstock

Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

STONINGTON —No matter what ECC division that Woodstock plays football in, the Centaurs can’t find relief.

After struggling mightily for five seasons in the ECC-Large, Woodstock was granted a move to the ECC-Small this season in football only. The Centaurs find themselves at 0-5, 0-2 ECC-Small.

Now Stonington, which has righted its ship with two wins after two losses to open the season, invade Woodstock’s Bentley Turf Field for a matinee looking to hurdle the .500 mark in an ECC out-of-division game.

Woodstock shocked CIAC basketball with a Class L state title last season. The same Cinderella story has not come close to materializing in football, where so many more athletes are needed to compete than in basketball.

The Centaurs opened with a non-league 52-20 loss to Hamden Hall and followed with losses to St. Bernard/Norwich Tech (31-0), East Lyme (40-14), Griswold (41-8) and Killingly (40-0) last week. Stonington whipped Woodstock, 48-0, last year and 46-6 in 2010.

Stonington coach A.J. Massengale, though, said Woodstock has a handful of athletes to watch, including 6-4, 235-pound lineman John McGinn, who was a basketball frontcourt starter last season, quarterback Billy Harrington and back Justin Cutting (224 yards rushing).

“Woodstock runs a lot of different sets in the spread formation,” Massengale said. “Our defense definitely has to be prepared for a variety of looks. The quarterback is similar to Seth Hoagland, of Waterford, and Adam Davis, of Griswold, in that he is mobile and runs the option well and can throw. He’s a good football player.”

Woodstock likes to pass, but has completed less than 30 percent of its passes and has thrown seven interceptions. That stat will open the eyes of Bear junior defensive back Bow Johnson, who already has four interceptions. He is the brother of former Stonington two-time All-State defensive back Arrow Johnson.

“Bow has a nose for the football at receiver and defensive back,” Massengale said. “Two of his interceptions have set us up well to open the second half, one he returned for a score against Montville and last week we set up a score with a good return against Griswold.”

Stonington’s defense enjoyed its best game against Griswold in its 20-6 win last week. Lineman C.J. Dipollino had three sacks and linebacker Jack Riordan had two. Linebackers Zach Mueller and Harry Calmar had one sack each. Divante White intercepted a pass.

White looks to quarterback a productive offensive showing. Zach Poirier (62 carries for 620 yards, 8 TDs) continues to dazzle. Junior wingback Matt Mitchell offers great versatility with 168 yards rushing on 26 carries and a team-high 10 catches for 187 yards.

“The things we work on in practice don’t change from week to week, regardless of the opponent,” Massengale said. “We continue to go through our repetitions and get sharp. We take the same approach each week.”

Portsmouth at Chariho

Friday at 7

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High coach Mike Kelly thought he had faced a dangerous quarterback last week when Warwick Vets’ Jesse Sedoma produced 180 yards in total offense and scored three short touchdowns in a 26-14 win over the Chargers.

Then he saw the film of Division I Portsmouth and quarterback Matt Sewell. It looked like Sedoma in fast-forward speed. Portsmouth (4-1, 3-1 Division I) invades Wood River Junction to take on the Chargers (1-4, 0-4 Division II-A) in an out-of-division game. The 5-9, 165-pound Sewall has rushed for 800 yards and 13 TDs.

“Sewall is a completely different animal,” Kelly said. “He’s like a running back playing quarterback and one of the fastest guys we’ll ever play. Some backs have straight-ahead speed. He is fast and can change direction. And he’s not their only weapon. We’ll have to defend the entire field.”

Portsmouth comes in at an inopportune time for the Chargers, who felt good about themselves after coming off a solid showing against a 4-1 Warwick Vets squad. Chariho led 14-13 with just over nine minutes left to play.

“The film showed we made big improvement offensively,” Kelly said. “We made a few untimely mistakes offensively, and defensively we had some alignment mistakes that are tough to see at field level. Those are all correctable mistakes. We’ve improved week to week and would like to get a win, but Portsmouth will be a challenge.”

Portsmouth buried a strong La Salle Academy squad, 40-13, but was upset a week later against South Kingstown, 25-22. One an encouraging note for Chariho, the Chargers gave Portsmouth a battle before losing 27-13 last season on the road.

“It took most of the first quarter for us to adjust to that speed,” Kelly said. “We had one of our better efforts and were able to control the ball on the ground to keep their offense off the field, but that game came when we were losing a lot of people to injuries. I think we’ll be able to adjust to their speed a little better this year. Our secondary, Blake James, Jake Whan, Jose Laureno and Caleb McQuaide are going to have to set an edge to prevent long gains. They’ll be running a lot.”

Offensively, Kelly is pleased with the development of junior quarterback Jacob Rousseau and junior end Tyler Bobbin, who has a team-high 10 receptions and three touchdowns. Junior linebacker Adam Harvey, senior defensive lineman Matt Gooding and sophomore defensive end Nathan Pasell stood out against Warwick Vets.


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