During the early years of the current century, Burrillville High dominated Division III football in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. The Broncos annexed Super Bowl championships in 2000, 2003 and 2005. Moreover, during those three seasons Burrillville posted a combined 26-2 record.
But commencing in 2007, Burrillville went seven consecutive seasons minus a winning record in league games. During this drought, the Broncos posted a combined 14-38 record in Division II-A and III.
Prior to this season, Burrillville was relegated to Division IV when the Interscholastic League implemented a realignment based on school enrollment and previous records.
In retrospect, that realignment was the best thing that could have happened to the Broncos who, through games of Oct. 18, led Division IV with a 5-0 record (7-0 overall) and led all division rivals in scoring with 260 points. Despite the realignment the obvious question is “Why?” as in why have the Broncos turned around a program that for a long time was mired below .500?
“These seniors are committed to their class, the program and to each other,” said coach Gennaro Ferraro. “I knew with these seniors it wasn’t going to be that difficult to win. It was a matter of how we were going to shape up.
“The goal always is to win. A lot of kids play for different reasons. Some play to wear the jerseys or to have the experience. These kids play to win.”
The 11 seniors that Ferraro referred to are Isaiah DeSilva, Dillon Amaral, David Gariepy, Samuel Astilerro, Jack Collins, Jacob Wall, Justin Deschamps, Trever Duquette, Jacob Ferreira, Bill Pollard, and Jake Wilson.
“That’s the main reason why we’re having a great season,” said Ferraro. “The senior leadership has been the best since I became the head coach (i.e. Ferraro is in his sixth season in this position).
“They have great leadership among each other and for the rest of the classes.”
If there’s been one game that underscored how Burrillville has turned around its season it was a 41-6 rout of defending Division IV Super Bowl champion North Providence.
“North Providence is a very good football team and is well-coached,” said Ferraro. “They’ve been the leader in this division for some time. To play them and beat them, we knew going in that we wanted what they have. We want to win the Super Bowl. They had a 15-game winning streak coming in.”
It was a winning streak that obviously went up in smoke.
“Our kids were ready for the challenge in terms of beating them,” said Ferraro. “It was a league game and we wanted to beat them to give ourselves great position for the post-season.”
Burrillville’s offense is a coach’s dream in that it’s balanced with an equal emphasis on passing and running.
*DeSilva, the quarterback, has completed 56 of 89 passes for 1,007 yards and 15 touchdowns with a mere one interception.
* Junior running backs Zack Hayes (22-272-7) and Antwan Dearden (30-225-2) lead the ground game.
* Junior wide receiver Riley Tupper has snared 25 passes for 556 yards and nine touchdowns. In addition, Tupper has returned a punt for a score and returned four interceptions for touchdowns.
“He’s more important for us on defense,” Ferraro said of Tupper. “But our offense goes through Isaiah. He’s my first three-year starter we’ve ever had. It speaks volumes to be able to have a three-year player at quarterback in our offense.”
To say the Broncos will have to emulate their performance against North Providence in the coming weeks would be a massive understatement. Burrillville plays division title contenders Scituate on Saturday, Smithfield on Nov. 1 and North Smithfield on Nov. 8.
“The meat of our schedule is the last three games,” said Ferraro. “Each of those teams only has one loss. That will determine what the post-season picture will look like.
“Having the meat of our schedule at the end of the season is good because now we’ve had experience. These kids haven’t won more than three league games ever. Having the meat of the schedule at the end is important in terms of seeing how that post-season schedule is going to be.”
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.