Quarterback Ryan O’Kelly scored twice on runs of 35 and 13 yards and threw for another TD as host West Warwick went on to defeat Coventry, 28-6, for their seventh straight victory in the annual Thanksgiving Day football game between the two Kent County rivals.
The Oakers finished with a record of 2-9 overall and 1-6 in Division II-A
But the Wizards (9-2) came into this annual affair heavily favored after posting a Division II-B mark of 6-1 for their first division title since 1993. They had lost to Central HS, 27-12, in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
And the Wizards already took a solid grip on the first play from scrimmage from both sides of the ball.
Coventry senior QB Alex Zannella completed a five-yard pass to senior wide receiver Chad Moore. But the ball was immediately jolted loose on a jarring hit by Wizards lineman Cesar Jimenez and recovered by the hosts at the Oakers 35. One play later O’Kelly romped down the left sideline for a 35-yard score.
The Oakers then stunned the home crowd five minutes later, fashioning a 60-yard scoring drive aided by two Wizards’ facemask penalties. Zannella completed the Oakers’ only scoring drive by scrambling to the right to evade onrushing Wizards defenders and then lofted a pass to Aaron Means in the end zone for a 19-yard reception. Zannella kicked the extra point for a 7-6 Oakers lead.
West Warwick struck again- or so it appeared-on a 55-yard romp into the end zone by John Morrison on the first play of their second offensive series. But the play was nullified on a holding call and the Wizards started from the 30 instead, but only temporarily delayed another offensive thrust.
Wizards star running back, senior John Morrison, gained back 14 yards before O’Kelly connected with wide receiver Domenic Bisceglio for a 39-yard reception. Two plays later O’Kelly made a sharp slanting run from the left to the endzone corner with plenty of offensive line pulling support for a 13-yard TD. James Kaplan kicked the extra point.
The Oakers advanced all the way to the Wizards 17 early in the second quarter before a 11-yard sack by defensive end Zachary Deschane put the visitors out of scoring range.
Just before intermission, and in just four plays covering 40 yards, the Wizards surged ahead to take a 21-6 lead. Morrison bolted 14 yards up the middle to complete the drive and senior Aaron Koehler, normally a linesman, added the extra points to give the hosts a 21-6 lead at intermission.
The Oakers put up a strong front throughout the second half and would go on to halt the Wizards a total of six times throughout the game.
Among key Oakers’ defensive stops was a combined effort in the third quarter by junior linebackers Michael Nolan and Brandon Parenteau to throw Morrison for a one-yard loss on 4th-and-3 from the Oakers 25 in the second quarter. Stryker Blue had an interception in the third quarter.
But the Wizards capped the scoring on an O'Kelly-to-Bisceglio 12-yard pass play with under two minutes left.
The never-say-die Oakers ended the game on an upbeat note as junior running back Brian Grant ran twice for a total of 27 yards. Zannella, son of the head coach, completed his high school gridiron career with a 35-yard ramble to the Wizards 14 as time expired. "He is a gem," said coach Zannella of his son, who temporarily left the field in the first half after one of four sacks made on the oft-besieged signalcaller.
“We were the classic underdog,” added Zannella. “I congratulate West Warwick. They made a couple of big plays here and there. They had a lot of seniors and skill people and once they spread it out it was tough to cover them. For us to put on a creditable showing is a great place for us to step off for us next year.”
"It took a few days to recover from our (playoff) loss to Central,' said Wizards head coach Shane Lagor. "But they got up for this game once they realized what they were playing for. We came into our season with high expectations and are going to miss our seniors (15). We are a talented team and we worked hard."
West Warwick now holds a 39-9-2 advantage over Coventry in the Thanksgiving Day series.