The stage was set at Cranston West Stadium for the first round of playoffs between the Cranston West Falcons and the Woonsocket Villa Novans. The Red Storm was out in full force, cheering on their Falcons, who came into the matchup fresh off a three-game winning streak.
On the other side of the field, the visiting Villa Novans were hoping to end their three-game losing streak and survive for another week. Before the game, Woonsocket Head Coach Charlie Bibeault addressed the Villa Novans’ previous troubles getting into the win column.
“Never easy coming into the playoffs on a losing streak, but we feel that we’ve been playing better even if the scoreboard doesn’t show it. Nothing beforehand matters anymore now, everyone is 0-0. We have some seniors on the team that have Superbowl experience, and we are counting on them to lead us,” said Bibeault.
For the home team, it was a question of whether they could keep their good fortunes and momentum going into the playoffs. Pregame, Cranston West Head Coach Tom Milewski talked about how things are completely different come postseason.
“All bets are off in a playoff game, it’s do or die. We’ve been gelling at the right time of the season the last couple of weeks, but Woonsocket is going to bring it tonight,” said Milewski
Woonsocket did in fact bring it with their strong defense, forcing a turnover early with their defensive line getting pressure on sophomore quarterback Kelan Cornell, forcing an arid throw resulting in an interception by freshman cornerback Joe Greenless. Fortunately for the Falcons, the turnover did not result in any points.
The Falcons did much better on their next possession, with a couple of big quarterback runs by Cornell and a 12-yard screen pass to senior receiver Hudson Carvalho to set up a touchdown run by senior running back Marcus Chung at the start of the second quarter. Cranston’s defense stepped up with senior Stevie Girouard making an impressive interception, picking off a laser from Woonsocket’s junior quarterback Daunte Melton. Girouard’s interception set up the Falcons at the Villa Novan’s 25-yard line. Marcus Chung then got his second touchdown off a 21-yard scamper to make the score 14-0 Falcons.
Woonsocket finally answered with a touchdown of their own, scored by senior defensive tackle Xavier Luke, running out of the fullback position. Luke also had some tackles for losses and a sack in the game. The PAT was missed, making the score 14-6.
The Falcons got the ball with 23 seconds left in the half. They were hungry and wanted more points, so they gave the ball to who else but Marcus Chung, who ripped off 32 yards on an end around. With 15 seconds left, the Falcons were looking for another big play, but Woonsocket’s standout junior Jamaury Barr had other plans, intercepting Cornell on another hurried throw and ran 65 yards to the house. The Villa Novans went for two but came up unsuccessful, making the score 14-12, Falcons at the half.
After forcing a Woonsocket punt, Cranston West took it right down the field with more big runs by Marcus Chung, who capped off the drive with his third touchdown on the night. Junior Jack Majcher proved to be automatic in the kicking game making his third straight PAT to put the Falcons up 21-12.
Woonsocket came roaring back with a big drive of their own, fueled by hard running by junior Jonathan Peguero and a clutch third down catch by senior Vincenzo Casieri. Xavier Luke finished off the offensive conquest with a two-yard touchdown run. The Villa Novans attempted another two-point conversion to no avail once again, making the score 21-18.
With Cranston West only needing a couple first downs to grind the clock to zero, Marcus Chung put the team on his back. Chung picked up a 3rd and 11, a 3rd and 5, and a 3rd and 8 to effectively ice the game and send the Falcons to the second round of the playoffs. Chung finished the night with 214 yards and three touchdowns off 32 rushes, he was absolutely unstoppable. Villa Novans Head Coach Charlie Bibeault knew stopping Chung would be a tall task.
“Preparing for Marcus Chung is nearly impossible. You can never match that speed and explosiveness in practice. [We] Just have to do our best preparing for how they move him around. Account for him at all times and know where he is on the field. [We] have to play as a unit and not 11 individuals,” said Bibeault.
Although Woonsocket did not get the win, they put up quite the fight. Much like Cranston West, Woonsocket had constant penetration up the middle. Unfortunately for the Villa Novans, most of Chung’s yardage came from outside runs, exploiting Woonsocket’s difficulty at setting the edge. Chung’s deadly runs to the outside were no mistake, with Cranston West Head Coach Tom Milewski commenting on how they were going to utilize Marcus Chung and other Falcons key players.
“Marcus and Hudson [Carvalho] have been our go-to guys on offense. We gotta get them involved early. I’m sure Woonsocket knows that too, so they’re probably going to do some things to take them out of the game, so we’ve got to be a little bit more creative on offense. Those are our guys who got us here, along with Dimitri [LeBlanc] and Don Schiavulli and Kelan Cornell. We’ve got to be a little bit creative, but we’ll get them involved and be physical,” said Milewski.
With Woonsocket now out of the picture, the Falcons will take on their next challenge, going to Portsmouth to face the 5-1 Patriots next Friday. Portsmouth defeated the East Providence Townies 14-13 to get to the semifinals and will likely prove to be a more formidable opponent than Woonsocket, with them riding a five-game winning streak. The Falcons will prove whether they are ready for the challenge next week, with only one more game standing in the way of a championship birth.
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