STONINGTON — After three tough road games, the Stonington High football team makes its home debut at the new Donald E. Palmer Field’s turf surface at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The Bears said good-bye to the ECC-Small Division after rising to the Medium this season. But the defending Small-champion Bears (1-2, 1-1 ECC-Medium) have not left behind traditional Small rival Griswold.
The always-tough Wolverines (3-1, 1-0 ECC-Small) invade as Stonington’s first foe on the new field in an out-of-division game.
“We always get support from our home crowd, it’s youth day and we’re excited to be playing a varsity game on our home field,” Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. “Griswold is a good team on many levels and has one of the best quarterbacks in the ECC.”
Griswold is quite the home wrecker, winning its last three games at Stonington in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Last year, the Wolverines held the usually-lethal Stonington Double Wing rushing game to no yards in 28 attempts. Bear quarterback Divante White stepped up to pass for 204 yards and two TDs in a 28-7 Stonington victory.
Griswold is in the driver’s seat to win the ECC-Small this season after nipping Windham, 21-20, en route to its strong start. The Wolverines feature one of the ECC’s better passers in Seth Davis, a 6-foot-1, left-handed senior, who threw for 249 yards against Windham. Aside from the key win over Windham, Griswold has beaten Woodstock, 41-8, and St. Bernard, 26-0, of the Small, and lost to East Lyme, of the Large, 20-7.
Stonington looks to continue positive vibes from its 35-21 win against Waterford where it rushed 60 times for nearly 500 yards, led by Zach Poirier’s 236 yards on 22 carries. Poirier, a senior, leads Stonington with 495 yards and is closing in on 2,000 career yards after hitting the 700-yard mark as a sophomore and 755-mark as a junior.
White also had a career-high 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard score. Stonington was so effective running, hite only attempted four passes.
Massengale gave the Bears’ offensive line of tackles Ryan Francis and Ted Farrell, guards Brad Turner and Dan Crandall and center Nick Ryan their highest marks of the season, but cautioned that the team overall must cut down on its penalties. Stonington was whistled for 12 penalties for 120 yards against the Lancers last week.
“They continue to work hard and get better every day,” Massengale said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Defensively, Stonington produced its best effort, holding Waterford to 21 points after squandering 86 points and more than 1,000 yards rushing in early losses to Fitch and Montville. Junior defensive back Bow Johnson has already intercepted three passes, including two fourth-quarter pickoffs last week.
The Bears received more help in the form of regulars returning to action from minor injuries (nose guard Andrew Cordeiro, linebackers Harry Calmar and Jacob Shulda) and an influx of sophomores (Seamus Wallace, Julian Maiarano and Hunter Floyd) into the rotation. Linebacker Jack Riordan, lineman C.J. Dipollino and White at safety also played well.
“We did a better job tackling and communicating,” Massengale said. “These are a resilient group of kids and never did I question their effort.”
at Chariho, 7 p.m.
WOOD RIVER JCT. — While the young Chariho High offense gains experience and looks to break a three-game streak of scoring one touchdown or less, the Chargers face perhaps Division II-A’s most experienced signal caller Friday — Warwick Vets senior Jesse Sedoma.
A three-year starter, the 6-foot-1 Sedoma leads the Hurricanes (3-1, 2-1 Division II-A) into Chariho in the fifth straight home game for the Chargers (1-3, 0-3 Division II-A). Warwick Vets has lost only to Woonsocket, 27-0, and has beaten Providence Country Day (47-21), Toll Gate (35-0) and Coventry (28-27). The one-point win came one week after Coventry blanked Chariho, 28-0.
“(Sedoma) has size, speed and experience,” Chariho coach Mike Kelly said. “He’s been in pressure situations many times and can read defenses and see open receivers. He’s probably the best quarterback we’ll face all year. He sets the tone for their whole team.”
The junior-laden Chargers have scored just five touchdowns with one coming on Daniel Urena’s blocked field goal return in the opening victory against Narragansett. Three Jacob Rousseau touchdown passes to end Tyler Bobbin account for three TDs. Kelly said Rousseau’s development as a passer is key to open up the Charger running game, led by 225-pound Sal DeSantis (49 carries for 234 yards) and John LaMotte (15 for 104). Rousseau, a junior, has thrown for 144 yards but no interceptions.
“The team understands we have a lot of new faces that have had to acclimate to high school varsity football,” Kelly said. “We’re getting solid play in spurts and look to extend those spurts to longer stretches. We’ve had different guys step up from time to time. Adam Harvey had a good game at linebacker against Mt. Hope and that has translated into practice. Receiver Nick Ciringione has done a great job blocking. All in all, everyone is working hard and looking to get better.”
On the positive side, Kelly said Chariho is relatively injury-free compared to last season when the Chargers seemingly lost a player a week from an already thin roster. The Chargers coach also hopes playing a fifth straight home game to open the season gives the Chargers an edge. In a rare scheduling quirk, Chariho’s first six games are at home.
“With a young team, you would rather play at home than board a bus,” Kelly said. “Not having to plan for traveling logistics is one less thing to worry about.”
Westerly at Toll Gate, Saturday 10 a.m.
WESTERLY — The momentum pendulum appears to be swinging in Westerly’s favor after its 0-2 start.
The Bulldogs (1-3, 1-2 Division II-A) handled Chariho two weeks ago and gave Woonsocket a scare before falling, 12-7, last week. And now they face a team which wasn’t won a game since 2011.
Toll Gate (0-4, 0-3 Division II-A) hasn’t tasted victory since posting a 2-9 record in 2011. Westerly coach Chris Wriedt is looking to take care of business but warns his winless opponent has mastered the art of disguise.
“They’ve struggled as a program, but are getting a little better,” Wriedt said. “The main thing with Toll Gate is they try to confuse you offensively. They run multiple sets — at least 20. They have one-back sets, two-back sets, no-back sets, three receivers, five receivers, two receivers. We have to be prepared for anything they throw at us.”
Opponents have outscored Toll Gate, 154-32. In Division II-A, Warwick Vets (35-0), Coventry (29-8) and Johnston (36-6) beat the Titans. Wriedt pointed out fullback-linebacker Chris Durand as a player to watch on a roster of 25 players.
“He’s a very tough kid who plays hard all the time, regardless of the score,” Wriedt said.
A concern for Westerly is replacing two-way senior starter Matt Moretta, who injured his knee against Woonsocket and will not play Saturday. Wriedt said Moretta, a tight end-defensive end, is awaiting results of an MRI and could miss at least two games.
“Joe Hill did a nice job at defensive end and Tyren Gamble gave us good production at tight end, despite never playing there before,” Wriedt said.
The Bulldogs will look to generate more offense than the 150 yards a game it has averaged. Fullback Tom McGuire (52 carries for 205) yards is the leading rusher for a team that accumulated half of its 514 season rushing yards in one game against Chariho (262). Woonsocket held Westerly to 13 receiving yards and 97 rushing yards in 46 carries, including minus-34 yards on five sacks.
“We’re trying to get the whole offense in stride after last week,” Wriedt said. “We’ve made progress overall, getting a little better each week than the opener against Barrington. This improvement hasn’t always equated to wins, but if we can stick that tight to a team [Woonsocket] that hadn’t given up a point in Division II-A, we can’t be that far behind.”