Boston High School: Austin Sczepaniak

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
12:56
PM ET
History.

Rhode IslandThat’s what defending Division I Super Bowl champion Hendricken is chasing this season.

Since the Rhode Island Interscholastic League implemented the Super Bowl format in 1972, only three schools have captured three consecutive championships at the Division I level: Rogers from 1976-78 and from 1988-80; Portsmouth from 1991-93; and Hendricken from 1994-96.

Ironically, the Hawks also qualified for the Super Bowl from 1997-99 only to lose each time. But six consecutive trips to the Super Bowl is the best run in school history.

Hendricken entered this season having played in five of the last six Super Bowls and at the risk of stating the obvious is pursuing its sixth trip in seven years.

No other team besides Rogers and the 1990s Hawks have made six trips in seven years and bused home with three championship trophies.

While the returning players still may have memories of their shocking 17-14 upset of previously undefeated La Salle in the 2011 Super Bowl, coach Keith Kroft began practice thinking about how to replace three First Team All-State selections: quarterback Ryan Brannigan, offensive lineman Max Heintzelman and wide receiver Laionel Cintron.

But while Branningan ran for just over 1,400 yards last season, another Hawk may do the bulk of the ball carrying if Hendricken’s 36-8 season-opening, non-league victory over St. Raphael Academy is any indication.

Junior running back Remmington Blue shredded SRA’s defense for 290 yards and four touchdown runs of 3, 53, 8 and 65 yards.

In 2011, Blue was at best the No. 3 running back – and sometimes No. 4 – because Hendricken was loaded with seniors at that position. But barring injury, Blue could make several teams – excuse the pun – feel “blue” this season.

But, altogether, Croft must replace 16 of 22 starters who graduated.

Topping the list of Hawks whom Croft hopes will plug holes are senior linebackers Marco Delvecchio, Jarrid Witherspoon, Robert Lineberger and Erick Olson; senior two-way linemen Nick DeCiantis (who checks in at 6-3 and 308 pounds) and Mario McClain.

La Salle, meanwhile, who dropped its non-league opener to North Attleborough still boasts one of the top running backs in southeastern New England in senior Josh Morris who accounted for 1,304 yards plus 16 touchdowns last season and was voted the Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year.

Lining up under center will be First Team All-State quarterback Anthony Francis who last season passed for 13 touchdowns and ran for an even dozen.

WE HAVE LIFTOFF
In other non-league openers of note:

*Stefano Marzale intercepted a pass and returned it 75 yards for a score to break a tie and give Cranston West a 12-6 victory over Cumberland.

* Dave Parrillo only ran nine times but gained 189 yards as Smithfield punished Pilgrim, 33-12.

* Austin Sczepaniak ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns while Bob Chavous passed for 145 yards as Division I power Portsmouth belted Rogers, 46-0.

* Mamour Samb scored four touchdowns on “only” 98 rushing yards to lead Tolman to a 49-6 romp over Classical.

* A fourth-quarter interception by Nick Liguori enabled Moses Brown to preserve what turned out to be a 7-6 win over Mount Pleasant. The “pick” was Liguori’s second of the game.

* Marc Breton only threw five passes, but he completed each one for 157 yards and three touchdowns as Johnston’s Panthers mauled Ponaganset, 40-0.

GORHAM’S RETURN BOOSTS TOWNIES
Over the previous 17 seasons, few – if any – high school football coaches in Rhode Island have been more successful than East Providence’s Sandy Gorham.

During that span, Gorham’s guided the Townies to 15 trips to the Division I playoffs and captured five Super Bowl championships.

But in late May, Gorham announced that he would be retiring after teaching for 36 years in the school’s Physical Education Department.

Gorham’s reasons were personal and financial because, at the time, the teachers’ union and the school committee were locked in contentious negotiations. Among other things, the committee was proposing to cut stipends for coaches and other teachers who performed extra-curricular work by 60 percent. And there was a chance that athletics would be eliminated – period.

But after a contract was hammered out and Gorham took time to discuss his initial decision with his family and friends, he decided to return.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL ON THE AIR
WOON radio (1240 AM) in Woonsocket again will broadcast a full slate of high school football games.

For example, September’s schedule includes the following: Woonsocket at Johnson on September 14; Rogers at Cumberland on September 21; Woonsocket at Westerly on September 28.

All games will commence at 7 p.m.

HAWK WILL BECOME AN EAGLE
Senior pitcher Mike King, who led Hendricken to the Division I state baseball championship, has given a verbal commitment to play baseball at Boston College.

He’s expected to sign his letter-of-intent during the fall signing 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.

SPONSORED HEADLINES