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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

9/8/2010

Ten.

Rhode IslandThat’s the number of Division I boys’ soccer state championships captured by Barrington High since the sport was added to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League in 1966.

That’s four more titles than the next closest school, La Salle Academy, has annexed.

Yet what transpired in 2009 – one year after the Eagles won their 10th title – left a sour taste in their collective mouths.

The second-seeded Eagles, who finished 16-1-1, were upset by seventh-seeded North Kingstown, 2-1, in the opening round of the tournament.

Since the Eagles return several players from that team, the question is this: Can they put that loss to North Kingstown in the rear-view mirror and focus on winning an 11th state title?

Don’t even broach the question to coach Don Denham.

“I really don’t like to dwell in the past,” Denham said quite matter-of-factly. “I only mentioned what happened [last year] maybe once or twice shortly after we began practice. I preferred to remind them what they did during the regular season.”

Barrington finished with 49 points which was the second-highest total among Division I-North, South, East and Central teams.

“We have new leaders this season. We have new seniors. Really, they must establish their own identity.”

Good point.

Barrington will be led by a pair of seniors who last season were voted First Team All-State honors: forward and leading scorer Jeff Craven (19 goals and 10 assists), plus midfielder Brett Sullivan. Denham also will look for offense from a group of forwards that includes senior Anders Weiss, junior Matt Giron and freshman Steven Duncan.

Senior Nate Lapides, who along with Sullivan is a co-captain, lines up again at midfield. And the Eagles received an unexpected boost when seniors Jared Davis and Adam Kolb transferred in from Providence Country Day School.

Defense is a mixed bag as far as experience is concerned. Denham, initially at least, will rely on seniors Chace Coleman, Tim Sanford and Shane Studley along with juniors Ian Duncan plus Christian Eglund and sophomore Carson Hall.

Sophomore Andrew Jones, who delivered an impressive performance as a freshman, is back as Barrington’s number one keeper.

LAUNCHING A NEW “CRUSADE”

The Prout School made history last season when it captured the Division III boys’ soccer state championship – the first soccer title at any level in school history.

The Crusaders, who were 12-3-2 overall and beat Tiverton, 1-0, in the finals, will sail into new waters this season since they’ve been bumped up to Division II-South.

Like most coaches regardless of sport, Prout’s Tim Ryan is “cautiously optimistic.”

“I don’t want to go into a new division thinking we’re going to have a carryover from last year,” said Ryan. “Realistically, I told our kids we have to start from square one and build from there.

“What really pleased me was that most of our kids got together during the summer and practiced on their own.”

Prout will line up with senior captain Christian Texeira and junior Ryan Cripps at forward while senior captain and junior Connor Hagerty will be called on to solidify midfield.

Another senior captain, Chris Latham, is the sweeperback while junior Chris Berard will play stopperback and junior Matt Craig plus sophomore Alex Pontarelli at wing back.

Senior Joe Notarantonio returns in goal with classmate Andrew Chinn available should anything unexpected happen to Prout’s starter.

BRONCOS ON FAMILIAR TURF

All things being equal, Burrillville High would have entered the 2010 football season as a favorite for the Division II regular-season title.

However, if the Broncos are to win a championship it will be in Division III.

When the Rhode Island Interscholastic League realigned, Burrillville was dropped to Division III for two reasons:

  • The Broncos only were 10-18 versus Division II teams over the past four seasons.

  • The school’s small enrollment (approximately 800 boys and girls).

Ironically, Burrillville was the dominant team when it was in Division III from 2000-05. Not only did the Broncos win 48 of their 56 regular-season games but they also were victorious in three of their four Super Bowl appearances.

But that being said, coach Gennaro Ferraro feels the R.I.I.L. made the proper move.

“We only have about 40 players and our depth isn’t as good as schools with larger (male) enrollments,” said Ferraro. “If one of our players has an injury, we can’t replace him with somebody of equal ability. We might have to go with a sophomore who hasn’t had much varsity experience.

“Besides that, we’re in a tough division with teams like Rogers (which was dropped down all the way from Division I), Moses Brown and Narragansett.”

Among Burrillville’s top returnees are senior quarterback Roger Blanchard, who passed for just over 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns; senior Brendan Darigan, who rushed for 810 yards; and seniors Ed Malone and Dylan Armstrong, who each caught 35 passes for over 600 yards.

“We had a great offseason,” added Ferraro. “I really feel our kids want to do more than just make the playoffs. But, as the saying goes, we have to take it one game at a time.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

As the 2010 football season kicks off, the following players — each of whom earned First Team All-State honor last year — are worth keeping an eye on:

  • Middletown’s Rico McCray: A senior running back, McCray scored 152 points (including 13 touchdowns) and rushed for just over 1,400 yards as the Islanders won the Division IV regular-season title.

  • Hendricken’s Ethan Ferreira: Keyed by this senior linebacker, the Hawks at one time won seven consecutive Division I games. Ferreira was credited with 92 tackles including seven sacks, and intercepted three passes.

  • East Providence’s Dana Andrade: The Townies returned to the Division I playoffs for the first time in three years, due in large part to this senior defensive end. Andrade made 65 tackles replete with seven sacks as opponents geared their running game to go away from him rather than risk it grinding to a halt.

  • Exeter-West Greenwich’s Al Georgio: Georgio, a senior, doubled as a running back and a cornerback and was voted the MVP of the 2009 Division IV Super Bowl as the Scarlet Knights retained their title. He ran for four touchdowns in a 42-28 upset of Middletown in the Super Bowl.

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.