Is there any sports fan who hasn’t heard that cliché’ “picking up the slack?”
That’s exactly what Division I leader La Salle Academy did on October 28 when the Rams overcame the loss of quarterback Anthony Francis, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, and still throttled playoff contender Cranston West, 30-6.
Junior running back Josh Morris certainly picked up the slack in his teammate’s absence by scoring on touchdown runs of 22 and 51 yards in the first half as the Rams remained on top with a 6-0 record.
La Salle also received a lift from backup quarterback Jack Collins who came off the bench and scored on runs of two yards and one yard.
As a result, La Salle has outscored its six division opponents by a hefty margin of 234-86 and is in position to run the table which would enable coach Geoff Marcone’s team to clinch the division title and the top seed in the upcoming playoffs.
But as is frequently the case, the title and the No. 1 seed won’t be decided until Thanksgiving Day when the Rams play arch-rival East Providence (4-1) in the state’s longest-running series on that holiday.
The Townies ventured to Massachusetts last weekend and were blanked, 26-0, by Foxborough in a non-league game – due in large part to the fact they committed seven turnovers. But the previous weekend, East Providence moved into title contention by beating third-place Hendricken (4-2), 35-14, as quarterback Brandon Peters threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Victor Adewoski and ran for a pair of touchdowns.
Should East Providence and La Salle enter their Thanksgiving game still ranked 1-2 in the standings and if the Townies win which would force a tie, they would earn the No. 1 seed based on the first tiebreaker (record in head-to-head competition).
The Division II-A title could be decided Friday night when Central hosts Chariho, with the teams tied for first place with 5-1 records.
Central would have been in position to gain a commanding lead until it was upset, 19-6, by Cumberland last Friday as Ryan Gaumond scored on runs of 18 and 2 yards.
The Knights had put themselves in position to run the table the previous week when they beat then-undefeated Westerly, 33-14, as Mike Washington ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Chariho moved into the tie for the top by belting Coventry, 32-6, with Colton Place and Austin McQuaide scoring two touchdowns apiece and quarterback Jansen Williams passing for two more scores. Not to be outdone was the Chargers’ defense which forced seven turnovers.
Previously undefeated Tolman fell into a first-place tie with West Warwick in Division II-B after the Wizards zapped the Tigers, 33-19. Should the teams finish tied for first, West Warwick would earn the top spot based on the first tiebreaker.
Rogers moved into sole possession of first place in Division III by routing Moses Brown, 35-17. Quarterback Cody Platt passed for two touchdowns, scored another on a short run and kicked five extra points as the Vikings improved to 5-1.
After Rogers, Classical, Moses Brown, Narragansett and Tiverton are tied for second with 4-2 records. The Vikings’ lone potential stumbling block is Tiverton who they play on Thanksgiving Day.
Mount Pleasant (6-0) remained firmly ensconced in first place in Division IV by routing Scituate, 36-6, with Joel Royster scoring on runs of 70, 10 and 30 yards.
Central Falls (5-2) moved into second place as a result of, perhaps, last weekend’s most impressive performance. Josh Brandon rushed for an even 200 yards and three touchdowns as the Warriors belted Providence Country Day/Wheeler, 31-6.
Because the Kilties beat the Warriors, 14-12, they own the first tiebreaker should the teams finish tied for the top spot.
FOUR “ACES” AT THE NET
Four champions were crowned in girls’ tennis, led by North Kingstown senior Hannah Zangari who beat Smithfield’s Jenna LeBarre, 6-3, 6-4 for the state singles titles.
La Salle (Division I), Smithfield (Division II) and Ponaganset (Division III) captured team titles in their respective divisions.
Zangari’s triumph capped her climb up the ladder since she reached the quarterfinals as a freshman, the semifinals as a sophomore and the finals as a junior where she was defeated by Bay View’s Rebecca Curran.
During the Division I season, La Salle was defeated by Lincoln School and Mount St. Charles. But the Rams gained a measure of revenge in the finals by defeating Lincoln School, 4-2, for their first state title since 2006.
The key points were provided by Amanda Pitocco and Sara Colgan who prevailed at No. 1 and No 2 singles, respectively.
LeBarre also gained a measure of satisfaction since she earned the final point as Smithfield beat East Greenwich, 4-2.
Both Smithfield (II-North) and East Greenwich (II-South) finished with 14-0 records during the regular season.
Ponaganset polished off an undefeated (17-0) season by blanking Scituate, 4-0, for the Chieftains first state title since 1994.
La Salle’s twin sisters, Madison and McKenzie Meehan, will play their college soccer at Boston College. Each girl is in the school’s program for gifted students and gave a verbal commitment to play for the Eagles.
Cumberland’s Stephanie Ribeiro, the second-leading scorer in the state, gave a verbal commitment to play college soccer at the University of Connecticut. Ribeiro in late October scored her 100th career goal.
RED CARDS ISSUED
In two highly-unusual developments, two schools dismissed their girls’ soccer coaches before their respective seasons ended.
East Providence’s Liz Balasco was asked to resign, with that order coming from somebody higher up the ladder than A.D. Paul Amaral.
The Townies last qualified for the Division playoffs in 2003.
And barely a mile down the street, Bay View Academy dismissed first-year head coach Angelo Pizzi and replaced him with assistant coach Marcelo Lopez.
At the time of his departure, the Bengals were 2-15-0 in Division I-North.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.