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Friday, September 9, 2011
New England Roundup: Rhode Island

By Mike Scandura

Invariably, post-season play is carved in cement before the football teams from Shea High and Central Falls High commence their respective seasons. But that hasn’t been the case for the last three seasons.

Rhode IslandFrom 1998-2007, Shea qualified for the playoffs (in Division II or Division III) nine times and advanced to the Super Bowl five times. And twice the Raiders rode home with the Super Bowl championship trophy.

The Warriors, meanwhile, have made five post-season appearances during the same time frame and won the Division IV championship in 2005.

Despite each team’s respective drought, both Shea coach Dino Campopiano and Central Falls’ Mo Jackson are optimistic that a reversal of fortune is realistic.

Shea missed qualifying for the 2010 playoffs by one game due to a combination of close losses, ill-timed penalties and costly turnovers. But fortunately for Campopiano, he returns a host of players from last year’s team who could (should?) help the Raiders return to their accustomed spot in the post-season.

Topping the list of key returnees are three seniors who line up at important skill positions: quarterback Adilson Silva plus running backs Jamal Tucker and Travis Gray.

Another senior, Adem Okubanjo, also will see action at running back as will junior Dennis Lloyd – who also can play linebacker and defensive back.

The Warriors, meanwhile, return eight players who saw significant minutes on each side of the ball led by All-Division senior lineman Sension Jimenez and classmate Joel Peralta, who earned All-Division honors at tight end.

Jiminez along with fellow seniors Nico Danielson and Cristian Romero give the Warriors three experienced linemen.

Central Falls also could have one of the more impressive wide receivers in Division IV in Steven Vazquez, who played quarterback and safety each of the last two years – and who is the defending state outdoor track and field champion in the high jump.

Jackson has indicated that he may alternate junior Brandon Canuto and sophomore Tyshon Ashe at quarterback – at least until one wins the position outright.

Senior Amado Gonzalez could be the Warriors’ top back when he lines up at fullback. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Warriors like Jevon Jimenez, Josh Brandon, Julien Rivera and Kenual Lopez. NORTHMEN HEADING NORTH (AGAIN)
North Smithfield is coming off arguably the best football season in school history, one that saw the Northmen qualify for the Division IV Tournament for the first time ever (6-2 in league play).

Despite having one of the smaller male enrollments of any high school in the state, North Smithfield had over 40 players show up when practice began – including 22 boys from last season’s team.

Perhaps the top returnee is Chris Mancini, who doubles at fullback and linebacker.

Paris Correia – who returns kickoffs – is back at running back while Ryan Masynk again will double at center and linebacker.

One of the key new kids on the block is Dan Jordan, who will be the Northmen’s quarterback.

HAWKS DON’T HAVE A “KICK”
Hendricken again is expected to take its place among the top boys’ soccer teams in the state.

Coach Mickey Rooney’s Hawks were 12-2-4 last season and reached the Division I Tournament prior to being upset in a preliminary round. Rooney’s primary challenge will be to replace nine starters, including three All-State selections. But Hendricken isn’t exactly lacking for talent.

Three-year starter Torrey Strickland returns to anchor midfield while senior forward Kyle O’Connell is back as is classmate Ben Gavin.

Senior Chris Davey and junior Shane Davidson are Hendricken’s top returning defenders.

If there’s one team that could up-end the Hawks, it could be Shea which returns eight starters including a pair of First Team All-State selections. The latter are forward Emerson Barros, who scored 24 goals last season and also earned All-New England accolades, and midfielder Joao Cardoso who accounted for five goals and nine assists.

The Raiders also return their keeper, Julio Garcia.

LADY CHIEFTAINS LEAD THE WAY
Commencing with the 1992-93 season, Ponaganset High reeled off six consecutive Division I girls’ basketball state championships.

As a result, it’s basically a no-brainer that two standouts from that era head the list of inductees to the school’s initial Hall of Fame class: Beth (Connealy) Wandyes and Julie (Stockwell) Letourneau.

The 11 other inductees are Joe Bucci, Russ Burlingame, Guy Mason, Avie Avedesian, Joe Brown, Beverly Bryant, Glenn Hopkins, Ken Potter, legendary boys’ hockey coach Roland “Red” Rabitor, Ted Stebbins and iconic baseball coach “Mac” Wright.

The induction dinner is played for September 30.

PASSAGES
A tragedy of unspeakable dimensions was incurred recently by Pilgrim High when two members of the school’s girls’ soccer team were killed in an automobile accident.

Senior Gabriella DiPalma, who earned All-State honors in 2010, and junior Elanna Zuller were the victims.

Pilgrim girls’ soccer team booster club treasurer Kim Ruggieri issued a statement which said in part “These girls were such a positive force for their families, friends and teammates and need to be remembered for their obvious love of life.”

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.