WOOD RIVER JCT. — Westerly High’s football team took advantage of a size advantage up front and overpowered Chariho 32-6 in a Division II-A game Friday night.
Junior halfback Clayton Minnich and senior fullback Tom McGuire were the chief beneficiaries.
Minnich scored on runs of 9, 32 and 15 yards, and McGuire scored from the 7 and the 1.
“It was real important (to get this win) because we started out 0-3 (including an Injury Fund defeat),” Minnich said. “But it was really good because we controlled the line of scrimmage. The line did much better. Every week they’ve been progressing and it’s just a great feeling right now.”
Westerly led 20-0 at halftime and the Bulldogs were in front 32-0 when the Chargers scored against their second-string defense with 4:39 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs (1-2, 1-1 Division II-A) ran 35 plays from scrimmage in the first half, Chariho (1-2, 0-2 Division II-A) ran 17. Westerly had 185 total yards in the opening half, the Chargers had 27.
“It was one of those cases, they were bigger getting off the bus and they played that way,” Chariho coach Mike Kelly said. “We’ve had that luxury that last few years. It’s not often we’re the smaller team and two weeks in a row we got a little bit of that. It just means we have to find a way to work a little harder and to deal with it. There were points where we knew where they were going, they knew where they were going, and they were just a little bigger at the point of attack.”
Westerly didn’t move the ball on its first possession but did gain field position and started its second drive from the Chariho 41-yard line.
With Minnich and McGuire carrying the ball, the Bulldogs quickly reached the 16. Drew Widdifield carried for 6 yards on first down. Bryce Lombardo followed with a 3-yard gain, and then McGuire scored on a 7 yard run. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound McGuire ran left, made a quick cut to his right and got to the end zone pretty easily.
Minnich said scoring first was big.
“It was real important because they kicked it off to us,” he said. “It was kind of like they were saying that they could stop us. That’s the way we looked at it because it helped us get motivated. We wanted to show them that we could move the ball.”
The Bulldogs went 61 yards in 10 plays on their next series. Senior quarterback Scott Liguori kept the series alive with an 11-yard scramble on fourth-and-8 from the 32. After not finding a receiver right away, Liguori rolled right and found a lot of open land to pursue.
Westerly scored three plays later on a 9-yard run by Minnich. The play was off tackle. Minnich was hit at the 2, but dragged the defender into the end zone. Liguori’s conversion pass to Anthony Garro made it 14-0 with 11:01 left in the first half.
Westerly’s third touchdown of the first half came after once again getting good field position.
The six-play series started at the Bulldog 46. Minnich and McGuire did all the running and Minnich scored on a nice 32-yard run off the right side.
Minnich broke a tackle 7 yards downfield and ran toward the right sideline. Jose Laureano hopped on his back at about the 1. but Minnich was able to cross the goal line.
“I think we improved from last week, which is what our main goal was,” Westerly coach Chris Wriedt said. “Win or lose we were looking for improvement. Fortunately, we got a couple in the first half and it made a difference in the game.
“Our front five played really well. We handled them pretty well in the first half.”
Chariho got the ball first in the second half and put together a nice drive.
Junior Sal DeSantis made a number of determined runs, getting extra yardage several times, and the Chargers moved from their own 28 to the Westerly 44 before the series petered out.
Westerly did not have nearly as much offensive success in the second half and field position once again was a big factor.
The Bulldogs pinned the Chargers at their own 19 thanks in large part to a 6-yard sack on first down by Charlie Elliot.
Westerly took over at the Chariho 30 after a 13-yard punt return by Jacee Hamelin.
Three plays later, Minnich scored his third touchdown. He hit a hole, darted to his right and dove into the right corner of the end zone, making it 26-0 with 8:46 remaining in the contest.
Westerly took advantage of two bad snaps from center to score its final touchdown. The first was high and resulted in a 20-yard loss from scrimmage. The second was low and came when the Chargers were trying to punt. Jacob Lacerte rushed punter Nick Chartier and forced a fumble that Chariho recovered at its 1-yard line. McGuire scored from there making it 32-0.
Chariho scored with 4:39 on a 29-yard pass from Jake Rousseau to Tyler Bobbin.
“We’ve been struggling to get a rhythm. We’re getting blocks, but we’re not creating a lot of space. We’re covering color which is the first part of blocking but we’re not getting a whole lot of movement so we’re getting a lot of stalemates,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of things we need to work on and we knew that. We’re not going to get bigger week to week but we can get better.”
Chariho hosts Mt. Hope on Friday at 7 p.m.
Westerly’s next game is Saturday at Woonsocket, 2:45 p.m.