STONINGTON — For 47 minutes and 16 seconds, Westerly High and East Providence played pretty much even-steven football.
East Providence’s touchdown in the first 44 seconds and two point-after-touchdown kicks proved to be the difference in the Townies’ 20-12 nonleague victory Saturday night at Stonington High.
“You didn’t even have a chance to get your feet wet for crying out loud and they were in the end zone,” Westerly coach Chris Wriedt said.
Justin Johnson caught a short swing pass from quarterback John Costa with a lot of open turf ahead of him on the left sideline.
Johnson sped up and met little resistance en route to a 48-yard touchown play. Corey Resendes’ PAT made it 7-0 before all of the fans had arrived.
“We’re just not used to that kind of speed, that’s the whole thing,” Wriedt said. “But we didn’t do real well defensively all game. We needed a couple of stops here and there and I think we could have moved the ball on them, which we did pretty effectively.
“When we were running the ball we moved the ball very, very well and we could score. But when they have the ball for five or six minutes you can’t score. That was our downfall tonight, not being able to get the ball back.”
The Townies opened the game with a 9-yard run by their fullback up the middle. Costa faked that play before tossing the ball to Johnson, which might explain why there was a lack of Bulldogs on that side of the field on that pay.
Division I East Providence (1-5) stymied the Bulldogs with the same read-option offense last year en route to a 21-7 win that snapped a season-opening four-game losing streak. EP went on to finish 1-7 in league play.
Westerly’s defense came up big the next time it was on the field. A fine angled 52-yard punt by Anthony Garro made the Townies start from their 7-yard line.
Four plays later, the Townies punted and Garro returned the kick 14 yards to the EP 36.
Clayton Minnich and Tom McGuire ran the ball into the end zone from there.
Minnch went the final 11 yards around right end, cutting inside a McGuire block at the 5.
The point-after kick was wide and the Townies stayed in front, 7-6.
Minnich would finish with a career-high 130 rushing yards on 27 carries — the junior’s second career 100-yard game. McGuire finished with 88 yards on 20 carries.
East Providence made it 13-6 with a 61-yard, nine-play drive late in the half. Johnson scored standing up from 1 yard out with 1:44 remaining.
The Bulldogs (2-4) opened the second half with an 80-yard scoring drive despite getting held to no gain on their first two plays.
Minnich converted a third-and-10 with a 12-yard run on a nicely timed option pitch from quarterback Scott Liguori.
Minnich got first down twice on third-and-three before McGurie scored on a 1-yard run off tackle.
McGuire was stopped on the conversion run leading the Townies in front 13-12.
Westerly put together another nice drive early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs went 42 yards in seven running plays for a first down at the Townie 28.
Minnich was held for no gain, and Liguori threw two incompletions before being stopped 3 yards short of a first down at the EP 21.
There was still 7:58 remaining but by the time the Bulldogs got the ball back there was only 2:20 to go and the ball was on the Westerly 33.
Too much real estate and not enough time for a team that has to operate the way the Bulldogs do.
Westerly got a quick first down and stopped the clock with 1:42 to go, but turned the ball over on downs four plays later 53 yards from the end zone.
“It’s just the option,” Wriedt said of the defensive problems. “The way we’re set up we’ve got two people on fullback, two people on the tailback and two people on the quarterback. But if one of them gets nicked or blocked now you’ve only got one guy there, and they’re good enough athletes; they put a little move on you and you’re left standing there and he’s going down the field.
“We just don’t match up well with teams with speed and this team has speed. They just have more athletes than we do. They weren’t big, but they were quick.”
Westerly returns to Division II-A action on Saturday with a 7 p.m. game against Warwick Vets at Stonington High.