R.I. football playoff matchups coming into focus

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
1:36
PM ET
Because of the vagaries of the Interscholastic League, Division II teams got a head start on their Division I, III and IV counterparts when they played their quarterfinal games last weekend.

Rhode IslandThe end result sets up the following semifinal games:
  • Defending Division II Super Bowl champion Cumberland will host St. Raphael on Friday night.
  • West Warwick, who overcame an early-season slump, visits Rogers on Saturday afternoon.

The Division II finals are set for Dec. 8.

Before stepping on the Tucker Field turf for the Clippers’ quarterfinal game against Coventry, coach Chris Skurka recalled three previous clashes with the Oakers each of which basically went down to the final play.

“If you go back to 2009, my first year as head coach here, we lost to them in triple-overtime,” said Skurka.

Cumberland barely held off the Oakers, 17-14, in 2010 and surprisingly blanked Coventry, 10-0, last season.

“Coventry always is extremely well-coached,” said Skurka. “I’ve known that for a long time. They’re sound in the running game and sound defensively. They’ve always been a tough opponent for Cumberland.”

“Tough” went flying out the window in this quarterfinal match because the Clippers “chopped” the Oakers down to size by sailing to a 42-7 victory.

“I didn’t expect a game like this,” Skurka said in a massive understatement. “”You never expect a game to be this one-sided. We’re very happy to be in the semifinals and whatever happens we’ll take it as it comes”

What made this victory particularly rewarding is that it came one week after West Warwick blanked the Clippers, 14-0, in the teams’ regular-season finale.

“We learned from our mistakes last week,” said Skurka. “We still had a couple of turnovers (against Coventry) and we still haven’t played our best game yet.

“I think it’s still inside of us to play even better than we did against Coventry.”

Oh.

“All” the Clippers did against Coventry was amass over 300 yards of total offense with junior tailback Mike Stock accounting for 168 yards on 24 carries.

With the offensive line opening holes big enough to drive a SUV through, quarterback Tyler Calabro gained 64 yards on nine rushes and fullback Joe Fine ran for two scores.

“The offensive line deserves a lot of credit,” said Skurka. “We controlled the line of scrimmage and were able to run to the football and control the clock.

“When you do that and play good defense, you’re going to be in good shape.” SAINTS SURVIVE: While Cumberland was dismantling Coventry, St. Raphael was squeaking by Woonsocket, 15-14.

Suffice to say if the Saints don’t play better against the Clippers their Super Bowl chances will dissipate in a hurry.

The Villa Novans bolted to a 14-0 halftime lead before SRA rallied and grabbed a 15-14 lead – the go-ahead points coming early in the fourth quarter when Emmanuel Leake threw a 78-yard touchdown bomb to Josh Alves, when then ran for a two-point conversion.

St. Raphael clinched the victory by recovering a Woonsocket fumble on the Saints’ 20 with 1:47 left in the game.

“I really feel our team has improved every week,” said SRA coach Mike Sassi. “Early in the season, we weren’t expected to be a playoff team because we were so young and only had a handful of starters returning on offense and defense.”

WIZARDS “MAGICAL”: West Warwick commenced its II-B season by losing to North Kingstown and St. Raphael.

So, right off the bat, the Wizards found themselves behind the proverbial 8-ball in terms of making the playoffs. But according to coach Shane Lagor, his staff “tweaked” the Wizards’ offense and threw in a few practice wrinkles.

The end result was a five-game winning streak which stamped the Wizards as a playoff team.

It was more of the same – and then some – in the semifinals when the Wizards flat-out crushed Mount Hope, 42-0, with quarterback Kody Greenhalgh throwing for a quartet of touchdowns – all in the first half which ended with West Warwick leading 28-0.

Rogers’ 28-14 victory over Johnston was a bit more suspenseful (but not much), as the Vikings beat the regular-season, II-A co-champions.

Liam Leys keyed the Vikings offense by running for two touchdowns plus a two-point conversion.

PERFECT RECORD EVAPORATES: Barrington’s bid for an undefeated record in Division I went up in smoke thanks to Portsmouth and to Eagles’ coach Bill McCagney’s proclivity for rolling the dice.

After their game ended scoreless, the team’s played a scoreless overtime period which necessitated another extra session.

Portsmouth removed the zeroes from the scoreboard when Travis O’Brien dived into the end zone and Andrew French kicked the extra point.

Barrington countered fourth-down touchdown run by J.R. Martin.

Then, instead of opting for an extra point and a third OT, McCagney opted for a game-winning two-point conversion. But a bad snap from center prevented quarterback Matt Rota from being able to handle the ball cleanly and the Patriots emerged with a 7-6 victory.

“On the road, we’re going for the win,” McCagney said without an iota of hesitation. “As far as I’m concerned, the sun will come up tomorrow.”

When it did, the Eagles still had locked up the top seed for the Division I Tournament while Hendricken was locked into the No. 2 seed and Portsmouth into the No. 3 seed.

The fourth seed won’t be determined until Thanksgiving Day when city rivals Cranston East (4-3) and Cranston West (3-4) clash in their annual matchup.

Obviously, a win by the Thunderbolts will enable them to punch their ticket to the playoffs as the fourth seed. But if the Falcons prevail, then it’ll be time to break out the list of tiebreakers because West currently has the same record as La Salle. And the Rams are favored to beat East Providence on Thanksgiving.

If the Falcons win, they’ll be tied for fourth with Cranston East and La Salle and the first tiebreaker, record in head-to-head competition, will be irrelevant because each team will have a 1-1 slate.

A tie also would exist in the second tiebreaker, quality standing points since each teams has vanquished the three teams below them in the standings and lost to Barrington, Hendricken and Portsmouth.

That would bring up tiebreaker No. 4, fewest points allowed in head-to-head in contests between the trio of teams.

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.

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