WESTERLY — Before the Division II football season started, St. Raphael Academy was considered by most to be a top contender for the league championship.
Last week, when the Saints opened the season with a 21-7 nonleague win against North Kingstown, a quality Division I program, that sentiment appeared to be very justified.
On Friday night, St. Ray's added to its ever-growing résumé with a dominating victory over Westerly High, 28-7, at Augeri Field.
The Saints had two long ball-control drives to start the game and build a 14-0 lead. They had a key defensive stop on Westerly's best threat in the first half when it was still a game.
"They are a team that has some future Division I football players and they have a good supporting cast," said Westerly coach Stanley Dunbar, a St. Ray's graduate. "They are big and can run the football. We have to get better and hopefully we will see them down the road."
St. Ray's (2-0, 1-0 Division II-B) scored on its first possession, moving 75 yards in seven plays. Quarterback Andre Depina-Gray scored on a 2-yard run up the middle with 7:53 left in the quarter.
During the drive, Ethan McCann-Carter came down with a 32-yard catch on a play where he was well covered and appeared to have little opportunity for a reception.
On their second possession, the Saints moved 51 yards in 13 plays to reach the end zone. Moses Meus scored standing up on a 4-yard run up the middle to make it 14-0 with 10:06 left in the second quarter.
At that point in the game, St. Ray's had run 20 plays and the Bulldogs just three. The Saints had seven first downs; the Bulldogs, none.
Westerly struggled to run the ball most of the night, finishing with less than 50 yards on the ground.
"We tried to get the run game going, but to be honest with you we didn't have that many possessions in the first half. Our offense couldn't get into a rhythm," Dunbar said. "I think championship football starts in the trenches so I am not going to give up on running the football. We have to get better there."
Down 14-0, the Bulldogs had a chance to get back in the game on their next drive.
Westerly moved from its own 20 to the St. Ray's 6. Zack Tuck rushed for 23 yards in the drive to that point. Luke Marley also had a 28-yard reception from quarterback Lance Williams. He was well covered, but went high for the grab.
The play put the ball at the Saints 6 with 5:20 left in the first half. On second down, Tuck ran to the 1, but the play was called back on a holding penalty.
On third down, Meus came up with an interception on what appeared to be a pass that was deflected. Meus was moving toward the Saints' end zone as he made the play.
The officials ruled that Meus did not gain control until he reached the end zone. Westerly coaches lost the argument that he had control before then and actually ran into the end zone. They argued the play should have been ruled a safety for Westerly.
Westerly's best scoring opportunity was gone.
"If we score and make it 14-7 at the half and we were getting the ball to start the second half, then maybe we are in a different situation," Dunbar said. "That definitely hurt us."
St. Ray's scored on its first possession of the second half. Meus, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound junior, went 47 yards on a counter play down the Westerly sideline to make it 21-0 with 8:52 remaining in the third quarter. He is one of those Division I players Dunbar was referring to.
Meus also put three kickoffs out of the end zone with a slight breeze at his back and had a sack.
Once again, Westerly had a decent drive on its next possession in the third quarter. The Bulldogs moved from their 20 to the Saints 44. Williams had two completions to Ben Gorman for 21 yards.
Williams appeared to connect with Marley for a 12-yard gain to the St. Raphael 32 with four minutes left in the third quarter. But the Bulldogs were called for holding and the drive stalled.
St. Ray's added another TD with 11:37 left in the game on a 13-yard run by Henrique Ross.
Greg Gorman scored Westerly's only TD, catching a 32-yard pass from Williams with 5:43 left in the the game. Chad Mayne's extra point made it 28-7.
Westerly travels to Rogers next Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The Saints are at Coventry that night at 7.