Maybe it didn’t have all the glitz and glamour of the games Rogers High played against Division I rivals like La Salle, Hendricken and East Providence in the 1970s and 1980s. But the Vikings’ 7-0 victory over Aquidneck Island rival Middletown High on Oct. 15 put coach Frank Newsome’s team in a place that it’s seldom been over the last decade and a half -- first place in Division III.
Under the legendary John Toppa, Rogers won five Division I championships from 1973 through 1978 and five more from 1985 through 1990. But entering this season, the Vikings had posted only two winning records in the last nine years (5-4 in 2000 and 6-4 in 2005).
Moreover, the program hit rock bottom from 2006 through 2009 when Rogers compiled a painful 9-23 record.
One reason for the Vikings’ decline didn’t require a Bill Parcells to decipher: A lack of talent brought on by the exodus of talent from Newport as families moved from the City by the Sea. Or in the case of Navy personnel, men and women were transferred and, of course, their children went with them.
As a result, Rogers dropped all the way down to Division III this season - something which would have been unthinkable as recently as the 1990s.
Middletown, meanwhile, primarily has played in Division III but has spent time in each of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s four divisions. But the only time the Islanders played for the Division I state championship was in 1980.
After the Vikings’ conquest of Middletown, they had sole possession of first place at 4-0 (6-1 overall) while Middletown and Moses Brown were tied for second at 3-1.
Understandably, Newsome isn’t about to “request” that playoff tickets be printed. But this latest victory gives the Vikings a better shot at qualifying for the playoffs than might have been the case if they had remained in Division I.
The game’s only score came in the third quarter when quarterback Cody Platt threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Morgera, and Damion Rodrigo kicked the extra point.
Defense was the key for Rogers –- especially when it came to stopping Middletown’s All-State running back Rico McCray.
McCray stepped on the field have scored 14 touchdowns and a total of 88 points in Middletown’s four overall games.
Against Rogers, not only was he held scoreless but he also was held to less than 100 yards rushing which was well below his per-game average.
Barring an upset between last weekend and Oct. 30, Rogers can take a major step toward clinching the regular-season title -- plus the top seed in the playoffs -- by beating Moses Brown in Providence.
A list of other recent football highlights:
Barrington continued to fare well against its parochial school rivals by blasting La Salle, 27-7, on Oct. 8, which helped the Eagles tie for second place in Division I. Jack Ryan, who was Barrington’s No. 2 quarterback last season, threw touchdown passes of 35 yards to Vin St. Angelo and 22 yards to Alex Spiess, and also ran 60 yards for a fourth-quarter score.
Chariho (3-1) handed Johnston (3-1) its first loss in Division II-A by posting a 21-14 victory on October 15 as Joe DiSpirito ran six yards for a key fourth-quarter touchdown.
Brent Champagne was a one-man wrecking crew for Cranston West as he ran four touchdowns of 42, 32, 45 and 58 yards in a 39-13 romp over St. Raphael in a non-league game.
Tevin Dale returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown and then returned an interception 50 yards for another score as Mount Pleasant blanked North Providence, 34-0, in Division IV action.
Exeter-West Greenwich’s Al Georgio continued to slice and dice Division IV defenses as he ran for 328 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 26-22 victory over North Smithfield on Oct. 15. The victory enabled the Scarlet Knights to remain undefeated at 5-0 – and in first place, one-half game ahead of Mount Pleasant (4-0).
COUGAR ON THE RUN
To say North Providence’s Alex Gallo was disappointed in his performance in the New Balance Ocean State Invitational in late September would be a major understatement.
The Cougar standout placed a lackluster (by his standards) 67th – one reason being he slipped and fell on the Goddard State Park course in Warwick.
Gallo ran more like he usually does on Oct. 16 in the 28th annual Brown University Cross Country High School Invitational.
He outdistanced his other Rhode Island rivals by placing eighth in the Boys’ Championship Race with a personal-best time of 15:31 – a race that featured just over 100 of the Northeast’s top runners.
Gallo’s performance may have stamped him as the runner to beat in the class and State championship meets.
Dick Magarian, who built Coventry High into one of New England’s top interscholastic wrestling programs, recently announced his retirement as the Assistant Executive Director of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.
The 70-year-old Magarian was named to the position in 1996. When he steps down officially in January, it will mark the first time in 48 years that he won’t be involved in education as a teacher or an administrator or as a coach.
ENTER THE HALL
One-time East Providence High basketball star Kenny Bliss has been tabbed for induction as part of the Class of 2010 for the Rhode Island College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Bliss played in 96 games for the Anchormen and scored 1,311 points. That total ranked 10th all-time in school history upon his graduation in 2001.
He earned First Team All-Little East Conference honors as a senior after earning honorable mention accolades as a junior.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball and hockey and 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.