SMITHFIELD – It would have been easy to blame the not-so-great weather, soggy field, and wet footballs for Smithfield High’s quick exit from the Division IV playoffs last Friday night.
But after watching his 3rd-seeded team suffer a 19-3 quarterfinal-round loss to the 6th-seeded EWG/Prout co-op football team at the Boyle Athletic Complex, 2nd-year head coach Glenn Castiglia instantly gave credit to where it was due in his post-game remarks with the media.
“Hats off to EWG,” he said. “They played very well. They had a couple of key offensive calls where they executed and kept the chains moving, and they did a good job defensively.”
The loss was the third in a row for the Sentinels, who had kicked off their season with a 4-0 record, only to struggle offensively over the next three weekends and total just nine points.
The visitors limited Smithfield to just 144 yards of offense, sacked senior quarterback Joe Smith four times, and recovered a fumble by Smithfield on the EWG/Prout 34-yard line on the game’s opening drive, which one play earlier, saw a roughing the punter penalty keep the Sentinels’ offense on the field.
“I thought our guys had the right intensity and came to play tonight, but we’re still not executing,” Castiglia admitted. “We made too many mistakes, and in the end, they come back and cost you.”
The Sentinels’ first mistake was their lost fumble. From there, the visitors went to work on a nine-play, 64-yard drive that saw senior tailback Hunter Mumford (19 carries for 84 yards) pick up the bulk of the yardage, junior fullback Todd Schofield cap the drive with a 29-yard touchdown run with 3:26 left in the first quarter, and freshman Harris Krupp tack on the extra point.
On the Sentinels’ ensuing drive, which saw senior Mike Tartaglia return the kickoff to the EWG/Prout 45, the hosts only gained a yard and were forced to punt. On fourth-and-nine, they tried a fake punt, but it resulted in an incomplete pass.
But on the final play of the half, the Sentinels broke on the board on a 23-yard field goal by junior Jarrett Nappa, and setting up that score was a 33-yard pass from junior quarterback Joey Smith to his classmate, tailback Ryan Flynn, with 17 seconds on the clock.
The visitors received the ball to start the second half, and they put together a 14-play, 56-yard drive that zapped seven minutes and 13 seconds on the clock and saw senior quarterback Chris Cardolino cap it by plunging into the end zone from the one-yard line.
Cardolino only completed one pass in the game, and it came during this drive, when on third-and-8 from the Sentinels’ 27, he threw a 22-yard strike to junior Christian Dimery, who was wide open when he hauled in the pass.
The Sentinels then countered with a long drive of their own, but with 10:19 to play in the fourth quarter, they turned the ball over on downs at the EWG/Prout 35. From there, the visitors marched down the field, and with 4:33 left in the game, Cardolino scored on a three-yard keeper.
Despite the defeat, the Sentinels received a solid performance from Smith, who was called upon to pass the ball more in the second half and ended his night completing nine of his 17 passes for 106 yards. Junior wide receiver Chris Currie reeled in five of his passes for 45 yards, and Flynn caught three for 55 yards
“Joey did a good job,” said Castiglia. “He has a pretty good understanding of our offense and the routes and the concepts that we’re trying to run. He’s improved a lot with regards of reading defenses, and he knows where we want to go with the ball.”
EWG/Prout will face the D-IV’s other co-op team, Juanita Sanchez/Providence Country Day/Wheeler, in Friday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinals at Providence’s Conley Stadium. Undefeated Ponaganset will host Davies in the other semifinal-round matchup on Friday at 7 p.m.
Smithfield, meanwhile, will prepare for its Thanksgiving Day game at home against North Providence. The Cougars were scheduled to host the game, but work began last week on their school’s new turf field, which is expected to be ready next fall.