WESTERLY — Westerly High’s football team missed a golden opportunity to thrust itself into the thick of the Division II-A playoff race.
The Bulldogs held Warwick Vets scoreless until the waning minutes of Saturday night’s game — with a little help from the Hurricanes themselves — but had little offensive success and fell 7-0.
Warwick scored with 1 minute, 15 seconds remaining.
“(It was a frustrating loss) to say the least, but I’m sure it’s more frustrating for the kids knowing that they had opportunities,” Westerly coach Chris Wriedt said.
“We get that fumble on early in the game and we turn around and give it right back on they next play. We’re first-and-goal from the 5 and we don’t get it in. Those are the things you have to execute if you want to be a team that’s going to be in the playoffs and we didn’t do it.
“You contained their best athlete most of the night. Yeah, you had a couple of penalties here and there that helped us, but they obviously got caught doing something wrong. So it is frustrating, yes.”
A win would have put Westerly (2-5, 2-3 Division II-A) in a three-way tie for third place with Warwick Vets and Coventry with two games to play. The top four qualify for the playoffs.
Now Warwick is tied with Woonsocket and Johnston for first place at 4-1. Coventry is fourth at 3-2, and Westerly and Mt. Hope are tied for fifth at 2-3.
“They’re down, there’s no doubt about it,” Wriedt said of his team. “We said ‘This was a do-or-die game.’ We needed this to get in. Now, fortunately Coventry beat Mt. Hope (Friday), gives us a little light at the end of the tunnel. But remember if we’re in a tie with Mt. Hope, they beat us head to head. If there’s a tie, they get in, we don’t.
“You got Coventry next week. It’s a home game (Friday at 7 p.m.). You just got to gear up and get ready to go to war again.”
Westerly finished with 132 yards of total offense. That’s not many considering that 74 of them came on two runs.
Westerly’s first possession began at the Vets’ 32-yard line after a fumble, but the Bulldogs fumbled the ball back to the Hurricanes on the next play.
Warwick drove to the Westerly 9-yard line in the second quarter but turned the ball over again, again fumbling.
After a short punt into the strong wind, the Hurricanes got the ball back at the Bulldog 13 but after getting to the 6 were pushed back to the 13. The visitors set up for a 30-yard field goal try, but the snap went off the hands of the holder and the ball went back to Westerly on downs.
The Bulldogs got the ball first to start the second half.
On the second play, halfback Clayton Minnich whipped through a hole to the left of center, cut to his left and headed on an angle for the left corner of the end zone. Kyle Agin stopped Minnich at the Vets’ 15 after a 50-yard romp.
The Bulldogs made a first down at the 5, but quarterback Scott Liguori was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Warwick mounted a drive in the fourth quarter that reached the Westerly 28, but Joe Hill intercepted a pass at the 5.
Westerly got a first down on Liguori’s 24-yard scramble, but punted three plays later.
Vets took over at the Westerly 42 and scored five plays later.
Senior quarterback Jesse Sedoma set up the score with a 29-yard run on a read option — the same play that East Providence used so effectively the week before.
Fullback David MacDonald went the final 6 yards for the touchdown. He was slowed at the line of scrimmage, but bounced the play to his right and easily got into the corner of the end zone with only 1:15 left in the game.
The error-prone Hurricanes had one touchdown called back by a holding penalty.
Asked about Westerly’s offensive problems, Wriedt said: “They put a little kid at nose guard over our center and he just ran around him all night long.
“And backside pressure. We’re trying to run left and we’re getting people on our right side coming through making tackles from behind. It shouldn’t happen but it did. That simple. Didn’t execute up front. Last week we ran the ball effectively. We moved the ball up and down the field against a pretty good football team (Division I East Providence). This week, playing against a good football team, we tried to do the same thing building on what you did. Didn’t happen.”
Wriedt said Westerly tried just about everything to run the football.
“We didn’t try the option tonight, that’s the only thing we didn’t try but we were just getting too much pressure,” he said. “Their middle linebacker, No. 44 (MacDonald), is tough. He was in on most of the plays, and if you can’t control the middle of somebody’s defense you’re not going to run the ball.
Westerly has had success with an unbalanced power formation but not on Friday.
“They changed their defense,” Wriedt said. “They went to a six-man front when we did that so we’re trying to double-team the downmen. Now you’ve only got one guy to block their middle linebacker and he’s able to get by that and make stops.”