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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
New England Roundup: Rhode Island

By Mike Scandura

It didn’t require the second coming of Bill Belichick to foresee that two best teams in Division I would meet in the Super Bowl.

Rhode IslandAfter all, La Salle was the only team in the state to finish with an undefeated league record. And Hendricken’s only loss was to the Rams by a 39-14 score way back on Sept. 16.

This dream – and unique – matchup was determined when La Salle routed East Providence, 41-14 and Hendricken emulated the Rams by hanging a 42-14 loss on South Kingstown in the semifinals.

Ironically, in the 39 years that the Rhode Island Interscholastic League has held Super Bowls, the Rams and Hawks have yet to meet in the championship game.

The Hawks will be making their third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl and will get a chance to defend their title due in large part to the play of their defense against the Rebels and the play of quarterback Ryan Brannigan.

After spotting the Rebels a 7-0 lead, on Garrett O’Dowd’s 72-yard punt return, Hendricken slammed the door and held South Kingstown to a paltry four years in total offense in the team’s first four possessions.

Brannigan, meanwhile, scored on a pair of one-yard runs and threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Webb.

The Rams hardly broke a sweat while dispatching the Townies for the second time in six days.

After romping to a 34-13 victory in their annual Thanksgiving Day clash, the Rams bolted to a 34-0 halftime lead which rendered the remaining 24 minutes as football’s equivalent of garbage time.

Josh Morris, who may be the best back in the state, accounted for 117 yards and one touchdown on eight carries, and also caught five passes for 92 yards and three more scores.

Now, check this out.

Since dropping a non-league game to Bridgewater-Raynham, the Rams have reeled off five consecutive victories during which they’ve outscored their opponents by combined margin of 181-61. CHARIHO-CENTRAL THE SEQUEL
When Chariho and Central played a Division II-A game on Nov. 14, the Chargers eked out a 20-14 victory in overtime.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the teams will be hard-pressed to stage a repeat performance when they clash in the Division II Super Bowl.

Chariho beat Cumberland, 14-0, in one semifinal game while Central beat Westerly, 28-14, in the other.

The Super Bowl trip will be especially meaningful for the Chargers because they’ve never won one at any level.

Chariho scored on a four-yard run by Jordan Cassidy and a nine-yard run by Brandon Cahoon.

Central’s win was noteworthy because the Knights didn’t have to rely on star running back Mike Washington to carry the bulk of the load.

Granted, Washington did score on runs of 16 and two yards. But linebacker Ed Pupoh scored twice – count it, twice – to key the victory.

Pupoh pulled Central into a 14-14 tie when he scooped up a fumble and ran 20 yards for a touchdown.

Then, in the third quarter, Pupoh blocked a punt and returned it 26 yards for a score.

If anything Westerly derived some solace prior to the end of its season since the Bulldogs blanked Stonington (Conn.) High, 15-0, on Thanksgiving Day in the 100th meeting between the two teams.

VIKINGS RISING FROM THE ASHES
There was a time when Rogers was THE dominant team in the state.

Under legendary coach John Toppa, the Vikings captured 11 Division I state championships.

But for a variety of reasons, the Vikings became mere shadows of their former selves and eventually dropped down to Division III.

The Vikings earned a shot at the Division III Super Bowl title by outlasting Classical, 20-14, in one semifinal game.

Rogers will face defending champion Middletown, a 38-22 winner over Narragansett as the Islanders will be seeking the fifth football state title in school history.

Rogers and Classical were locked in a 14-14 tie in the fourth quarter when Cody Platt scored on a three-yard run.

Platt was superb as he completed 9-of-12 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown.

Middletown capitalized on a series of Narragansett fumbles and penalties to earn another bowl trip.

Randolph Butler carried the ball 20 times for 138 yards and one touchdown while Kevin Nash gained 64 yards and scored once on nine carries.

BIG GAME FOR WARRIORS
To say 2011 has been a brutal year for the city of Central Falls would be a massive understatement because a budget deficit forced the state to appoint a receiver to solve the city’s financial dilemma.

If nothing else, that’s why Central Falls High’s trip to the Division IV Super Bowl could do much to lift the spirits of the city’s residents.

The Warriors, who lost 27-6 to North Smithfield during the regular season, beat the top-seeded Northmen, 25-17, in one semifinal game.

CF will face Mount Pleasant, a 21-7 winner over Smithfield.

The play that clinched the victory for CF came late in the third quarter when Sension Jimenez returned an interception 50 yards for a score – which produced a 25-10 lead.

The Kilties, who lost their last two regular-season games by two points each, eliminated the suspense fairly early by building that 21-7 lead after three quarters.

Jayquan Monteiro paced the Kilties by rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns on a mere 10 carries.

The Warriors will be seeking only the second Super Bowl title in school history while the Kilties will be out for their first – period.

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.