WOOD RIVER JCT. — Deep into the fourth quarter, a casual football observer would have had trouble identifying the RIIL Division II-A playoff contender Friday between Chariho and Warwick Vets.
The Chargers, an underclassman-laden team coming into the game with three straight losses, held a 14-13 lead and were the more physical and disciplined squad. The Hurricanes, a senior-led squad with a 3-1 record coming in, made numerous mistakes like a vintage Miami Hurricane squad, including 20 penalties throughout the game.
But in the last nine minutes, the best player on the field, Warwick Vets senior quarterback Jesse Sedoma, took over and made a number of crucial plays, including a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs to lift the Hurricanes to a difficult 26-14 win over the Chargers.
Warwick Vets improved to 4-1, 3-1 Division II-A.
“It was sloppy and frustrating,” Warwick Vets coach Mike Nappa said. “But a sign of a good football team is one which sticks the ball in inside the 10 and we did that. Chariho has some players and were more physical than we thought they’d be.”
Chariho (1-4, 0-4 Division II-A) had its best chance to win since its season opener, and coach Mike Kelly believed the Chargers were just a few plays away from pulling off the division’s biggest upset to date.
“You see the difference with their seniors making big plays when it counts and our predominantly junior squad having trouble stopping them on third and long,” Kelly said. “But we made progress. I can see our team growing up on the field. What we’re missing now is putting together a complete game.”
Chariho took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter on Adam Harvey’s 15-yard touchdown run on a counter play with 4:25 left. The Chargers were winning the field position battle, stuffing Sedoma for losses and gladly accepting the barrage of Hurricane penalties.
But one of Chariho’s three penalties was crucial when the Chargers were called for roughing the passer in the end zone on 3rd and 17, extending what would be a 91-yard scoring drive on Sedoma’s 35-yard TD pass to Kyle Morrissette for a 7-6 lead with 8:52 left in the half.
The lead grew to 13-6 with 33 seconds left in the half after a Chariho fumble at the Chargers’ 7. Four plays later, Sedoma snuck in from the 1.
“Overall, I was happy with the first half because we flipped field position and strung some drives together,” Kelly said.
In the third quarter DeSantis accounted for 56 yards rushing in the Chargers’ 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive.
Blake James ran in from 5-yards out on 4th and goal with 6:26 left in the third. Quarterback Jacob Rousseau’s conversion two-point run gave Chariho a 14-13 lead.
“At that point of the game it was the most complete game we’ve had,” Kelly said.
Warwick Vets answered with a long drive, which ended when on a fumble and James recovered on the Charger 8 with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
Chariho went three and out and gave the Hurricanes the ball back in good field position when Nick Chartier’s punt bounced off the head of a Charger.
The ball caromed 10 yards backward to the Charger 31 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
After gaining a first down, yet another Warwick Vet personal foul set up a 3rd-and-28 at the Chariho 32.
Sedoma (16 rushes for 99 yards, 85 yards passing) scrambled for 31 yards to the Charger 1 in a back-breaking play.
On the next snap, Sedoma snuck over for a touchdown and added a PAT to make it 20-14 with 9:22 left.
Chariho answered by driving to the Vet 40 but turned the ball over on downs with four minutes left.
At that point, the Vets’ experience took over as battering fullback David MacDonald (8 carries, 88 yards) ran for 17 and 15 yards, then added a 10-yard run on 4th-and-5 at the 18 with 3:30 left. Sedoma scored two plays later from the 1 with 2:01 left to seal it, 26-14.
DeSantis led Chariho rushers with 61 yards on 10 carries, 57 coming in the second half. Rousseau completed four of 10 passes for 85 yards but was sacked three times for 33 lost yards.
In the first half, he was 3-for-4 for 58 yards and one interception at the 1-yard line on the Chargers’ first series of the game. Tyler Bobbin caught three passes for 74 yards.
“I’m happy with the way my quarterback played,” Kelly said. “He made some nice throws, but he took a beating late. It’s tough throwing the ball when the other team knows you have to pass.”
Chariho fumbled three times and lost one. Chariho’s Jose Laureno caused a fumble, which teammate Zach Briggs recovered after a MacDonald 29-yard run on the Hurricane’s first play.
Chariho’s defense produced a goal-line stand in the second quarter after 1st and goal at the 3-yard line. Sophomore defensive end Nathan Pasell recorded two tackles for losses. Sedoma’s pass on 4th down was dropped in the endzone.
Chariho plays home 7 p.m. Friday against Division I Portsmouth.