Boston High School: East Providence

East Providence (R.I.) takes first baseball title

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
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In the illustrious history of East Providence High sports, the Townies had won a total of 14 state championships prior to this academic year. State championship banners in sports like football, hockey and volleyball adorned the walls in the school’s gym.

Rhode IslandBut what was lacking was a state championship banner in baseball.

The Townies under third-year head coach Bobby Rodericks (EP Class of ’98) rectified that situation last week when it beat North Smithfield 5-2 and 3-1 in the best-of-three finals for the Division II state championship.

“Coaching is my life and it was my goal to win a state title,” said Rodericks who played baseball for the Townies in the 1990s. “I was a captain. I wanted to win a state title for us. Knowing we never had a banner in the school, when I got hired my assistant coach (Chris Kennedy) and I said in three years we’re going to turn around this program and win a state title.

“It wasn’t easy. It was frustrating knowing we didn’t have (a state baseball championship) but it was a relief when I got hired. Two years ago in Barrington I took over the wrestling team and went from worst to first so I know what it takes.

“I stick to my routines,” continued Rodericks, “and I’m hard in terms of the physical and mental aspects.”

Not only did the Townies win the first state baseball championship in school history but, in the process, they also set a school record for victories in the sport by posting a 22-3 overall record. And their 14-2 regular-season record tied for the best overall mark among the state’s 27 Division 2 teams.

“This season it was McCoy Stadium or bust,” Rodericks said while referring to the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, which also serves as the venue for the baseball finals. “We set goals and last year I told the team ‘Life isn’t fair.’ If you want to win you have to work.

“We worked hard and we we’re hungry. This didn’t happen by accident.”

In retrospect, the Townies had a good chance to annex the 2013 Division 2 state title since they compiled a 15-1 regular-season record only to be eliminated during a qualifying round.

“Last year we had the best player in the state, Nick Karalekas, who got a full ride to Merrimack College and was the first All-Stater we’ve had since I don’t know when,” said Rodericks. “We also had Alex Hurley who went to Worcester Academy and is now at Stonehill. They carried us. Last year it was a combination of battling and getting the short end of the stick.

“This year it was more even keel and our team was more mature by one year. This was more of a team effort even though we didn’t have a Karalekas and a Hurley by far. But we came together and played good baseball.”

That was especially true of EP’s pitching duo of seniors Keith Grant and C.J. Woods. Grant finished 10-0 with a microscopic 0.71 ERA replete with 57 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings while Woods was 8-2 with a 1.05 ERA and an impressive 114 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings.

“We had C.J. and we knew he was going to win,” said Rodericks. “We also had Grant and we knew we were going to win.”

But the Townies weren’t a one-dimensional team that solely relied on pitching. In fact, they produced three of the top hitters in Division 2. Outfielder Jasiah Hatch hit .417 with 30 runs and 30 stolen bases. First baseman Colin Costa led the team with a .435 clip and 20 RBI. Junior catcher Mike Allienello hit .380 with 28 RBI.

Hatch was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“I think Jasiah (was the tournament’s MVP) because he got things going and started the series hot for us,” said Rodericks. “But Costa had five hits (in the tournament) and three with two outs.’

“Our four seniors (Woods, Grant, Hatch and Costa) came through, moreso than the underclassmen. Everybody contributed but the seniors shined more than the others. When there was pressure, they rose to the occasion.”

Because East Providence only graduated the aforementioned seniors, the prospects for 2015 would appear to be bright.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Rodericks. “We have our defense back. And Kyle Marquis threw a one-hitter and a no-hitter against Hope.

“I’m fully confident next year because of Marquis. He also was my DH. He’ll be a hitting pitcher next year which I didn’t have this year.”

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.

R.I. football playoff matchups coming into focus

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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Because of the vagaries of the Interscholastic League, Division II teams got a head start on their Division I, III and IV counterparts when they played their quarterfinal games last weekend.

Rhode IslandThe end result sets up the following semifinal games:
  • Defending Division II Super Bowl champion Cumberland will host St. Raphael on Friday night.
  • West Warwick, who overcame an early-season slump, visits Rogers on Saturday afternoon.

The Division II finals are set for Dec. 8.

Before stepping on the Tucker Field turf for the Clippers’ quarterfinal game against Coventry, coach Chris Skurka recalled three previous clashes with the Oakers each of which basically went down to the final play.

“If you go back to 2009, my first year as head coach here, we lost to them in triple-overtime,” said Skurka.

Cumberland barely held off the Oakers, 17-14, in 2010 and surprisingly blanked Coventry, 10-0, last season.

“Coventry always is extremely well-coached,” said Skurka. “I’ve known that for a long time. They’re sound in the running game and sound defensively. They’ve always been a tough opponent for Cumberland.”

“Tough” went flying out the window in this quarterfinal match because the Clippers “chopped” the Oakers down to size by sailing to a 42-7 victory.

“I didn’t expect a game like this,” Skurka said in a massive understatement. “”You never expect a game to be this one-sided. We’re very happy to be in the semifinals and whatever happens we’ll take it as it comes”

What made this victory particularly rewarding is that it came one week after West Warwick blanked the Clippers, 14-0, in the teams’ regular-season finale.

“We learned from our mistakes last week,” said Skurka. “We still had a couple of turnovers (against Coventry) and we still haven’t played our best game yet.

“I think it’s still inside of us to play even better than we did against Coventry.”

Oh.

“All” the Clippers did against Coventry was amass over 300 yards of total offense with junior tailback Mike Stock accounting for 168 yards on 24 carries.

With the offensive line opening holes big enough to drive a SUV through, quarterback Tyler Calabro gained 64 yards on nine rushes and fullback Joe Fine ran for two scores.

“The offensive line deserves a lot of credit,” said Skurka. “We controlled the line of scrimmage and were able to run to the football and control the clock.

“When you do that and play good defense, you’re going to be in good shape.”

(Read full post)

Hendricken again setting pace in R.I.

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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That Hendricken High again is among the top football teams in the state, while playing in the top division (Division I), isn’t a major surprise.

Rhode IslandThe Hawks have a long history of reloading instead of rebuilding – which is exemplified by the fact they’ve won three consecutive Division I Super Bowls and have a chance to become the first team in state history (since the Interscholastic League implemented Super Bowls in the early 1970s) to win four consecutive bowl championships.

But the fact Hendricken is 4-0 overall and tied with Barrington for first place with a 3-0 record is a surprise considering the Hawks have a veritable rookie under center – Pat Gill.

Last season as a junior, Gill was under center for exactly zero snaps as the Hawks upset La Salle in the Division I bowl with then-senior Ryan Brannigan leading the way.

But at the end of fall practice and before the regular season commenced, head coach Keith Croft decided that Gill would be his best option at least to qualify for the playoffs if not win that iconic fourth consecutive Super Bowl.

“Pat has been one of the greatest success stories in the history of Hendricken football,” said Croft. “Really, he’s an underdog (for what it’s worth, Gill checks in at 5-feet-8 and 160 pounds) and is the type of kid you root for.”

Gill gave an indication of things to come in Hendricken’s non-league, season opener against a Division II team, St. Raphael, whom the Hawks dispatched by the score of 34-6.

Gill completed a modest 3-of-4 passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns –one a 25-yard strike to Lee Moses and the other a 20-yarder to Mike Scarcella.

“At the beginning, I came into a new role after our Super Bowl championship,” said Gill. “Fortunately, we had a lot of guys back especially in the offensive line. But in the beginning, I really was a little bit shaky.

“Once we got going it was amazing.”

At the least, Gill was semi-amazing during a 36-14 victory over South Kingstown in Hendricken’s division opener.

He passed for 94 yards, including a 33-yarder to superb running back Remington Blue midway through the second quarter for a 7-0 lead. Gill also threw another touchdown pass and dashed 36 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter to break the game open.

“I’m more comfortable knowing how to read the routes better,” said Gill. “I also feel I’m more explosive when I’m running. But I have to get better.”

Gill gave another indication that he was getting “better” during a 38-7 romp over East Providence.

The game was scoreless entering the second period when Gill heaved a 65-yard touchdown pass to Moses.

Altogether, Gill tossed a trio of TD passes – each to a different receiver.

With Gill and Blue leading the way, Hendricken turned a 40-0 Division I victory over Tolman into little more than a half-field scrimmage.

After the dust had settled, the Hawks led the division in both points scored (114) and fewest points allowed (21).

“Since I’m a senior, I know I have more experience and am better able to help the younger guys on the team,” said Gill. “We have a lot of our good skill guys back and we know what we can do.

“We know no other team ever has won four Super Bowl titles in a row. We’re very hungry to win that fourth title.”

ROLLING THE DICE: If La Salle Academy beats out Hendricken for the regular-season Division I title, and perhaps wins the Super Bowl, the Rams can look back on a 22-21 victory over Cranston West on Oct. 4, as the turning point in their season.

The Falcons led 21-14 entering the last 1:45 when La Salle when Jace Pena lofted a short touchdown pass to Keon Wilson with 25 ticks of the clock remaining.

The score also presented head coach Geoff Marcone with a conundrum: Go for the extra point (Pete DeSimore already had kicked two PATs), a tie and overtime, or opt for a two-point conversion which would produce a victory.

Marcone let the Rams decide and they opted for the deuce. Keon Wilson passed to DeSimone in the end zone for the game-winning points.

RETURNING TO THE HARD WOOD: Jane Burgess Schwechheimer has been appointed the new girls’ basketball coach at Lincoln School.

Burgess, who’s married to Pawtucket Red Sox General Manager Lou Schweccheimer, had a stellar career at Warwick Veterans High which enabled her to obtain inclusion in both the Hurricanes’ and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Halls of Fame.

She later went on to star for St. John’s.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 31, 2013
5/31/13
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What do the boys’ lacrosse teams from La Salle Academy, East Greenwich and Smithfield have in common?

Rhode IslandEach team is undefeated and is in first place in its respective division and, not surprisingly, is the odds-on favorite to capture a state championship.

The Rams (10-0 in Division I and 12-0), who are coached by Colonel Steven McConnell, the Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, boast an offense that’s off the charts.

Through matches of May 21, the Rams have out-scored their opponents by a margin of 202-65.

The story within the story is that La Salle attacks Brady O’Donnell and Joe Manown are the top two scorers in the state regardless of division.

O’Donnell, who’s a senior, has whipped home 56 goals and assisted on 33 while sophomore Manown has scored 49 goals and assisted on 38. What makes Manown’s proficiency all the more noteworthy is the fact he missed most of the 2012 season due to injury.

East Greenwich (13-0 in Division II and 13-2 overall), is riding the backs of 15 seniors who have played an integral role in the Avengers’ offense and defense.

Coach Brian Trapani’s team leads the division with 163 goals and has allowed a stingy total of 43.

Senior Colin Watikun and senior Colin Bernier lead the Avengers with 50 points apiece, Waitkun having scored 39 goals and assisted on 11 with Bernier having fired home 40 goals and assisted on 10.

Smithfield (12-0 in Division III and 12-2 overall) hasn’t lost a division game since the 2010 season.

Coach Joe Renzi’s Sentinels weren’t expected to be a contender since the team graduated 16 players from the 2012 squad. But attacks Brendan Benoit, Nick Gerlach and Matt Walker have led an offense that’s tied with Coventry in goals scored with 139.

MOUND KING
Team sport notwithstanding, the baseball program at Hendricken is heavily reliant on arguably the state’s best pitcher, senior Mike King who’s signed a letter of intent to play at Boston College.

King is a major reason why the Hawks lead Division I-North with a 16-0 record since he’s recorded an 8-1 record replete with 46 strikeouts and a mere six walks in 33 innings.

A right-hander, King didn’t allow his first earned run of the season until May 18 when Hendricken beat La Salle, 4-1. King spaced out six hits while going the distance – again.

King also helps himself at the plate with a batting average that’s hovered around .500 all season.

In a recent 5-1victory over Cranston West, King’s RBI single helped key a five-run first inning.

Another Hawk who’s been wielding a potent bat is John Toppa, grandson of the late Rogers High football coaching legend of the same name.

In a 4-3 victory over St. Raphael, Toppa’s fourth-inning double drove home the game-winning run. And in a 6-1 win over Cumberland, Toppa contributed a single, triple and two RBI.

Elsewhere:

* Central Falls pulled off the upset of the season regardless of division when the Warriors won their first game of the season – 5-2 over Division II-North leader Tolman (12-2). Emmanuel Antigua smacked a two-run single during a four-run fourth inning while Brandon Canuto went the distance for the victory. The loss sliced Tolman’s lead over second-place Scituate (13-3) to one game.

* North Kingstown’s Billy Young improved his record to 4-0 by blanking Toll Gate, 7-0, in a Division II-South game. Young allowed only two hits and fanned 10.

* East Providence’s Colin Costa collected two doubles, a single and five RBI as the Townies (14-1) held onto first place in Division II-Central by beating Mount Pleasant, 9-4. Teammate Colin Grant struck out 17 Kilties en route to the complete-game victory.

CLOSE SHAVE
Never let it be said that East Providence softball coach Rob Traverse isn’t true to his word.

A year ago, the Townies won only three of their first 12 games. Traverse made a “bet” with his players that if they won at least seven games this season he’d shave his head. They did and he did.

East Providence currently is in fifth place in the Division I with a 10-5 record – the Townies’ most impressive victory being a 2-0 blanking of North Kingstown (i.e. it was the Skippers’ first loss).

In that win over the Skippers, EP broke a scoreless tie in the eighth inning on Amy DeCastro’s single and Casey Traverse’s subsequent sacrifice fly.

In other games of note:

* Lincoln High to nobody’s surprise clinched the Division I title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming state tournament by beating La Salle, 4-1. Lindsay Mayer allowed only one run on two hits for the 14-0 Lions.

* Division II-East leader Moses Brown (10-5) blanked Central, 6-0, in a crossover game as Emma Rantanen tossed a one-hitter – losing her bid for a no-hitter when Dianna Torres singled with two outs in the sixth.

ENTERING THE HALL
Even though Central Falls is the smallest city in the state, its high school has produced a host of outstanding athletes.

Nine will be inducted into the Central Falls Athletic Hall of Fame on October 11: former boys’ basketball coach Ed McVeigh plus athletes Albert Cardosa, Jeff Desautel, James Dougan, Brian Goodhart, Kevin Guindon, Carmen Pizarro, Russell Standring, Ken Vaudreuil and Kinga Dobrzychi-Zuromski.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
2:59
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Different year. Same story.

Rhode IslandOr to put it another way, Hendricken is giving every indication that it’s zeroing in on a state-record 18th Division I baseball championship.

Through games of May 7, the Hawks led Division I-North with an 11-0 record – one game ahead of arch-rival La Salle (10-1) whom Hendricken edged, 3-2, on April 17.

Going into the season, veteran coach Ed Holloway knew he would have his ace on the mound in the person of First Team All-State selection Mike King (who’s already signed a letter of intent to play for Boston College).

But the Hawks’ pitching staff has developed into something more than a one-trick pony.

Senior Dillon Manfredi and sophomore Mike McCaffrey have developed into reliable starting pitchers who’ve given Hendricken valuable depth.

Most importantly, the Hawks have shown an uncanny ability to win close games (games decided by one run).

Following is a list of Hendricken victories that underscore the above point:

* McCaffrey went the distance on a two-hitter as Hendricken edged Cranston East, 1-0. The game was tied 1-1 entering the last of the sixth when John Toppa singled with two outs to plate the go-ahead run.

* Manfredi tossed a complete-game four-hitter as Hendricken nipped Johnston, 2-1.

* King hurled a two-hit, 13-strikeout shutout as Hendricken blanked Woonsocket, 2-0. King also helped himself at the plate as he lofted a first-inning sacrifice fly and doubled home a fifth-inning run. King pulled off a major escape act in the top of the seventh when the Villa Novans loaded the bases with none out only to have the Hendricken ace fan three consecutive batters.

* Eddie Markowski’s single in the bottom of the ninth broke a 1-1 tie and gave Hendricken a 2-1 victory over Lincoln.

* King struck out nine and allowed only five hits as the Hawks clipped Cranston West, 2-1. Hendricken utilized the long ball to win this game when Nick Boland belted a solo homer in the top of the seventh inning.

TOWNIE TIME
While Hendricken long has been the dominant baseball team in the state, the same can’t be said of East Providence.

But this year may be different for a school that’s never won a state baseball title.

The Townies moved into sole possession of first place in Division II-Central with a 10-0 record thanks to 3-2, come-from-behind victory over second-place Central (8-2). Jerry Espinal and Keith Grant combined on a six-hitter as the Townies swept the season series from the Knights.

Prior to that game, the Townies outlasted Warwick Vets, 8-4, with Nick Karalekas collecting two hits, two RBI and four stolen bases.

Led by Karalekas plus Alex Hurley, Jasiah Hatch, Mike Allienello and Marc LaValley, the Townies have been pounding the opposition into submission.

Want proof? East Providence out-scored its first 10 opponents by a combined margin of 99-20.

AROUND THE DIAMOND
In two other games of note, North Kingstown beat South County rival South Kingstown, 3-1, and moved into a tie for first place in I-South with each team having a 9-2 record.

The Skippers’ Dom Grillo went the route on a two-hitter – allowing an RBI double in the first and not surrendering another hit until the sixth. In addition, he fanned eight Rebels.

Brian Cox accounted for North Kingstown’s runs, with an RBI single in the fourth and an RBI double in the sixth.

Exeter-West Greenwich (2-8), which has been struggling in Division II-South, rallied from a 6-1 deficit and upset West Warwick, 10-6.

The Scarlet Knights trailed 6-1 entering the fourth when Matt Grenier came on in relief. Grenier blanked the Wizards (4-5) on zero hits over the last 3 1/3 innings which enabled him to notch the victory.

DEFENSE MISSING
Defense was left on each team’s respective bus when the girls’ lacrosse teams from Moses Brown and East Greenwich met in a Division I crossover game.

The Quakers’ Meghan Buonanno scored eight goals and assisted on one while teammate Alexandra Pinsky recorded an unbelievable total of seven goals plus six assists during a 25-19 victory.

Ironically, the Avengers’ Marielle Kraft out-did Buonnano and Pinsky by scoring nine games.

Moses Brown improved to 7-1 in I-North.

AROUND THE RIM
Division I champion La Salle landed two players on the All-State Girls’ Basketball First Team – sophomore Davida Dale and senior Priscilla Dunphy.

Dale led the Rams in scoring with a 17.7 average and was voted MVP honors in the Division I Tournament.

Dunphy, who’ll play her college basketball at UMass-Lowell, averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and two assists for a La Salle team that finished 21-4 overall and won its third consecutive state title.

Rounding out the top five are Exeter-West Greenwich sophomore Taylor Buckley, the Gatorade Rhode Island Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year; Westerly senior Hannah Dobson who finished her career as the second-leading scorer in school history with 1,589 points; and Barrington senior Caitlyn Nolan who averaged 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

HEADING NORTH AND SOUTH
Elizabeth Scala, who played hockey at Bay View Academy before transferring to the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, has signed a letter of intent to play for Syracuse University.

Central senior Carlos Mangum, who earned All-American and All-State honors in the weight throw, has accepted a full ride from the University of Miami. Most recently, Mangum was ranked fourth in the nation in the hammer throw with a heave of 212-feet, 9-inches.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
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At the risk of using a culinary metaphor, the regular season comprised the appetizer for boys’ basketball.

Rhode IslandThe soup and salad comprised the division tournaments. And the entrée is what 16 teams have been anxiously waiting to devour.

After Hope, Cumberland and North Smithfield annexed the Division I, II and III tournament championships, respectively, they’ll join 13 other teams for the third year that the Interscholastic League has held a tournament to determine the overall state champion.

The 16 teams are placed in four regions and seeded according to the final Power Point standings for the first round which tipped off Wednesday night:

Region 1: No. 16 West Warwick (17-8) vs. No. 1 Classical (17-5); No. 9 North Providence (16-5) vs. No. 8 Westerly (17-5).

Region 2: No. 16 Hendricken (11-10) vs. No. 2 La Salle (16-6); No. 10 Coventry (13-10) vs. No. 7 Hope (14-12).

Region 3: No. 14 Cranston West (14-9) vs. No. 3 North Kingstown (20-3); No. 11 Barrington (17-7) vs. No. 6 Mount Pleasant (13-8).

Region 4: No. 13 Prout (15-8) vs. No. 4 Cumberland (22-3); No. 12 Shea (16-8) vs. No. 5 North Smithfield (24-0).

How the three division champions reached their destination is an interesting story in each case.

Hope, for example, only was seeded eighth in the Division I Tournament. Yet the blue Wave captured their first championship since 1994 by beating fifth-seeded Coventry, 65-62 in the semifinals and upsetting third-seeded Classical, 69-65, in the finals.

Manny Kargbo scored a game-high 32 points (including 16-of-18 free throws) in the win over the Oakers while Ben Vezele posted a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.

The Purple, who averaged 70 points per game during the regular season, connected on only 18.7 percent (3-for-16) of their 3-point shots against the Hawks and needed a free throw from Kealen Ives with eight seconds left in regulation to break a 44-44 tie and earn a 45-44 victory in the other semifinal.

Ives led Classical with 20 points.

Without question the parents of the Cumberland players weren’t even born the last time the Clippers won a state title – 1936 when the school annexed the former Class C crown.

Do the math and that championship ended a 77-year drought.

A late 16-4 run enabled Cumberland to build an 11-point lead over the Raiders and eased the pressure going down the stretch.

Dylan Boisclair led Cumberland with 22 points while Tom Lazarus chipped in with 21, including the last nine from the charity stripe.

All North Smithfield did en route to the D-III championship was post the best record (24-0) in school history.

The Northmen beat East Greenwich, 66-55, in the finals, which enabled them to become the first team since Classical in 2008 to go undefeated and win a division title.

North Smithfield’s Cody L’Heureux arguably played a game he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

Not only did he score a game-high 31 points, but he notched his 1,000th career point in the process on one of his five treys.

DOUBLE DRIBBLES

In other games of note prior to the division tournaments:
  • Hope’s Kargbo scored his 1,000th career point during a 52-51 victory over Cranston East, which clinched a playoff berth. Kargbo finished with 14 points and an assist on Vezele’s game-winning basket.
  • Vezele recorded a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds (to go with five blocked shots) as Hope beat East Providence, 66-51, in a Division I preliminary round game.
  • L’Heureux delivered a premonition of things to come when he scored 27 points, including six treys, as North Smithfield whipped Davies, 79-53.
DOBSON IN ELITE COMPANY

Westerly’s Hannah Dobson moved into second place on the school’s all-time scoring list (boys and girls) as the Bulldogs belted Coyle-Cassidy, 48-31 in a non-league game.

Dobson now has 1,514 career points.

Scituate (14-2) clinched first place in Division II-North by beating Johnston, 52-40, with Sadie Ross contributing a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds).

HAWKS LEAD THE PACK

Hendricken (13-2-1) remained atop the standings in the Division I Cimini Division by beating Cranston West, 5-2.

Three was the magic number in that game because Matt Creamer recorded a hat trick while Ed Markowski was credited with three assists.

Mount St. Charles (13-3-0) remained right behind Hendricken thanks to a 5-1 win over Barrington. Brian Belisle played a superb game by scoring two goals and assisting on the other three.

HENDRICKEN WRESTLERS THE BEST

Maybe what Hendricken’s wrestling team did on Feb.14 should have been an indication of things to come.

Coach Kevin Hennessey’s team handed Cumberland its first dual-meet loss in five years by coasting to a 47-9 victory, improving the Hawks’ record to 15-0.

Then, in the state championships, Hendricken won its first title since 2004 even though it only had one boy win an individual crown – Jason Davol at 106 pounds.

Hendricken amassed 168 points while Exeter/West Greenwich and Johnston tied for second with 133.5 points each.

The key for Hendricken was its ability to score points in the “wrestle-backs.”

Nicholas Celico, Rob Lanni, Anthony DiMauro, Chris Barone and Dallas Sauer lost in the quarterfinals but maintained their composure and annexed victories that earned them third-place finishes.

In other matches of note:
  • Warwick Vets’ John Alteri won his third state title by blanking Cumberland’s Cody Beaudette, 2-0, at 113 pounds.
  • Alteri’s teammate, Nathaniel Colicci, defended his 126-pound state title by beating Moses Brown’s Andrew Howard. The bout was tied at 2-2 after three regulation periods and three overtime sessions. The tiebreaker was Colicci’s ability to hold Howard for 30 seconds.
  • While the 126-pound bout was the longest of the day, the 138-pound final was the shortest since defending champion Christian LaBrie of Exeter/West Greenwich pinned Cumberland’s Jon Mancini in 24 seconds.
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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

February, 16, 2013
2/16/13
4:34
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Officially, the nickname of the Classical High boys’ basketball team is the Purple.

Rhode IslandBut given how well head coach John Kavanagh’s team has played in recent weeks, perhaps that nickname should be preceded by the adjective “red-hot.”

Classical clinched the Division I-Central title by reeling off three consecutive victories – 79-75 over Hope, 82-58 over Smithfield and 89-70 over defending Division I state champion Central.

Ironically, Classical (14-3 in I-Central and 17-5 overall) is led by three of the shortest players on the team: 5-8 guard Kealen Ives, 5-10 forward Ismael Batista and 6-1 center Terrill Toe.

Ives is Classical’s leading scorer while Batista has proven to be a force on the offensive glass.

Toe buried a 3-point shot with 16.5 seconds left in regulation to break a tie and give the Purple a 79-75 victory over Hope. Ives celebrated his 17th birthday by scoring a game-high 34 points, which included 15-of-18 from the free throw line.

Ives just missed a triple-double when Classical belted Smithfield.

He finished with 21 points, 11 assists and eight steals while Batista and Toe combined for 51 points; Toe nailed seven 3-point shots).

Classical held its senior night on Feb. 12, and Batista made sure his classmates would go out as winners as he scored 19 points – including a quintet of 3-point baskets – which helped the Purple crown the Knights.

SKIPPERS REBOUND
North Kingstown’s Skippers, who had been cruising along in Division I-South, dropped an ugly 53-46 decision to La Salle in a crossover game.

Ugly was defined by the fact North Kingstown shot a frigid 29.3 percent (17-of-58) from the floor and 53.3 percent (8-of-15) from the free throw line.

But the Skippers (15-2) held onto first place in their division by rebounding to beat St. Raphael, 55-52, on Kazre Cummings’ 3-point shot at the buzzer and South Kingstown, 58-33, with Justin Pratt and Owen Heath combining to score 30 points.

North Kingstown (20-2 overall) leads the power-point standings while Classical is in second.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES
Austin Cilley broke the career scoring record for Westerly boys’ basketball – one that had stood since 1952 – by pouring in 38 points during a 61-58 overtime conquest of Barrington in a Division II crossover game.

Cilley raised his career total to 1,399 points, which eclipsed the previous mark of 1,386 set by Bob Serra in 1952. In the game where Cilley broke the career record, he tossed in 38 points, including nine in overtime, as the Bulldogs beat Barrington, 61-58.

Three other boys surpassed the 1,000-point mark for their careers in recent games: La Salle’s Jared Thompson; Mount Pleasant’s Jovel Beckford; and Ponaganset’s Scott Peterson.

PERFECTION ELUDES SAINTS
The St. Raphael Academy girls’ had their sights set on at least an undefeated season in Division II-Central. But Johnston derailed the Saints by handing them their first loss of the season, 65-63 when Isabella DiRaimo nailed a 3-point shot with 3.2 seconds left and, following a turnover, Alex DiRaimo tossed in a basket at the buzzer.

The Saints still led II-Central with a 10-1 record.

Elsewhere:
  • Exeter/West Greenwich coach Steven McGrane notched the 350th victory of his career when the Scarlet Knights belted Cranston West, 64-37, due in part to Taylor Buckley’s game-high 17 points.
  • Middletown (13-1) remained atop the III-South standings as the Islanders beat Hope, 58-31, with Chelsea Dowler posting a double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds).
  • Juanita Sanchez handed the Islanders their first loss, 53-47, and maintained a firm grip on second place (10-1).
“WEIGHTY” ACCOMPLISHMENT
Barrington High senior Charlie Ionata is inhaling rarified air after his performance at the East Coast Track & Field Invitational.

Ionata uncorked a heave of 77 feet, 6.5 inches in the weight throw, which not only captured first place, but, according to the U.S. High School Weight Throw Performance List, was the longest in the nation.

In addition, he beat the previous meet record of 73-feet and three-quarter inches and moved into 11th place on the all-time national list – good for second on Rhode Island’s all-time list.

SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE
Several Rhode Island high school football players inked National Letters of Intent during the recent signing period.

One of the more notable “signees” was La Salle’s All-State quarterback Anthony Francis – the 2012 Gatorade Rhode Island High School Football Player of the Year – who opted for Marist College.

Cumberland wide receiver Mitchell Baxter and North Kingstown tight end Alex Madoian signed with Bryant University.

Portsmouth native Charlie McKeeman, who played for Bishop Stang of Dartmouth, Mass., signed to play fullback for the University of Rhode Island.

THE “BUTLER” DID IT
Not only was Alex Butler one of the best basketball players ever produced by East Providence High – where he is the head coach these days – but he also was one of the best ever to play for Rhode Island College.

Not surprisingly, Butler was one of 11 players recently inducted into the Little East Conference Hall of Fame.

Butler, who was an All-Stater in high school, was a two-time Division III All-American at RIC.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
3:57
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The highest magnitude on the Richter scale which is used to measure earthquakes is 10.

Rhode IslandThe upset the Coventry boys’ hockey team sprung on perennial Division I state champion Mount St. Charles registered 12.

Or to put it another way, the Oakers’ 2-0 victory on Jan. 19 was the first over the Mount in the 45-year history of boys’ hockey at the Kent County School.

In addition, it was the first time a Bill Belisle-coached Mount team lost to Coventry in the 37 years he’s been the Mounties coach.

The game was scoreless entering the third period when Coventry’s Jacob Harrington scored at 8:35 for what proved to be the game-winner and Steve Schmitt stopped 26 shots for his second shutout of the season.

Coventry (6-5 in Division I) followed up that win over Mount with a 4-1 victory over Cranston West.

The game was tied 1-1 entering the third period when Michael Peola scored the game-winner and Schmitt made 16 saves.

Mount (7-2-0) did rebound from that loss to Coventry by beating Hendricken, 3-1, when Vincent Pearl and Pat Holmes scored within a span of 43 seconds in the middle period, and Burrillville 8-0 with Pearl, Tyler Scroggins and Keith Phaneuf scoring two goals apiece.

But Coventry’s victory means the playoffs could be more interesting than initially expected.

TWO BETTER THAN ONE
Arguably one of the better stories during the boys’ hockey season has been that “written” by the new co-op team with players from West Warwick and Exeter/West Greenwich.

Entering this week the Wizards/Scarlet Knights led Division III with a 13-0 record and had outscored opponents by a 107-17 margin.

Key players for this team are forwards Tony Rel and Brett Coski while goaltenders Ivan Forcier and freshman Jared Olson have been virtually impenetrable.

HAWKS MIS-FIRING
Few schools will shed tears for the Hendricken boys’ basketball team given the fact the Hawks have dominated Division I over the last couple of decades.

But the current team resembles past teams in name only.

Through games of January 28, Hendricken is 6-5 in Division I-South primarily because of a lack of scoring.

When the Hawks crack the 60-point barrier it’s almost a reason to celebrate.

One reason why the Hawks have had difficulty mustering an offense is that Lee Messier, who last season was the team’s best outside shooter, transferred to the Tilton School in New Hampshire.

In other recent games of note:
  • Classical’s Terrill Toe scored his 1,000th career point during a 100-93 victory over intra-city rival Mount Pleasant in a game that lasted four overtimes. Toe finished with 30 points including six three-point shots.
  • Ismael Batista emulated Toe by notching his 1,000th career point during a 71-59 victory over Woonsocket. Batista scored 21 points including 7-for-7 at the free throw line.
  • St. Raphael’s Charles Correa poured in 40 points – 24 coming on three-pointers – as the Saints handed Division I-South leader North Kingstown (12-1) its first loss of the season.
  • Alan Strick only scored 11 points. But three came on a buzzer-beating trey that enabled North Smithfield to tie Middletown and force overtime. Then, Dan Jordan sank a free throw with 20 seconds left in the extra session to give the Northmen a 57-56 victory for the latter’s first Division III loss of the season.
LA SALLE’s DUNPHY TORCHES NETS
La Salle Academy’s Priscilla Dunphy is coming off two games that will be embedded in her memory bank for years to come.

After Barrington handed the two-time defending state champion Rams (12-1) their first Division I loss since the 2010-11 season by a 51-41 score (Caitlyn Nolan led the Eagles with 15 points), La Salle rebounded by whipping Exeter/West Greenwich, 57-37, and Westerly, 49-43.

Dunphy scored 22 points in the win over the Scarlet Knights. But against Westerly, Dunphy scored 13 points – including the 1000th of her career.

Previously, Westerly (11-2 in I-South), beat Barrington, 44-38, with Emily Dobson notching 16 points.

Elsewhere:
  • Senior Maggie Salomone scored her 1,000th career point as Narragansett beat East Providence, 63-49. Salomone finished the game with 21 points.
  • St. Patrick Academy, a small, all-girls school in Providence, was forced to cancel the rest of its first Interscholastic League season due to a series of injuries. Director of Athletics Charles Toste stated the school plans to revive the sport next season – one reason being it will add the 12th grade. Currently, the school only enrolls girls from grades nine through 11.
PASSAGES
Andy McGowan, the long-time director of athletics for the Warwick public school system passed away on January 23. McGowan, who assumed his position in 1968, was awarded the first Rhode Island Athletic Director of the Year Award in 1973.

He was voted into the Manhattan College Hall of Fame (his alma mater), the Rhode Island School Athletic Administrator’s Hall of Fame and both the Hendricken and La Salle Halls of Fame. McGowan became Hendricken’s Director of Guidance in the 1970s.

A FIRST FOR COVENTRY
Coventry High recently announced its first class for the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

The class includes Brian McGovern (who set state basketball scoring records in the early 1990s), wrestling coach icon Dick Magarian, 20-year hockey coach George Egan, Art Fiori (the school’s first A.D.), former football coach Bob Peltier; and Walter Clarke, for whom the school’s athletic complex is named.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
5:47
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In the history of boys’ basketball at North Kingstown, the Skippers have won only two state championships – each of which occurred while the team was playing in Division II (1985 and 1990).

Rhode IslandSo far this season, head coach Aaron Thomas’ team has its sights set on a loftier goal: the Division I state title.

Through games of Jan. 15, North Kingstown was the only undefeated team (8-0) in each of the state’s three divisions that comprise Division I.

The Skippers’ eighth victory came at the expense of Cranston West who was throttled 61-43, with Owen Heath scoring a game-high 29 points.

Coventry (7-1) was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten when Hendricken chopped down the Oakers, 52-45, with Garfield Coustard scoring 16 points.

Those results set up an “interesting” game for Jan. 17 when North Kingstown hosts Coventry with first place on the line in I-South.

But lest the Skippers become overconfident about their early-season success, Thomas is quick to remind them of what transpired in recent trips to the state tournament.

The Skippers were 16-2 last season but lost to Rogers in the quarterfinals.

In 2011, they were eliminated in the preliminary round. And in 2010, they were beaten by Hendricken in the state championship game.

MARATHON
And you thought the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks seemingly played forever in last weekend’s NFL playoff game.

Mount Pleasant and Classical staged a high school basketball version of the Falcons-Seahawks game on January 15 when the Kilties outlasted the Purple 100-94 in four – count them four – overtimes.

Zdahmond Dale (33) and Jovel Beckford (25) accounted for just over 50 percent of Mount Pleasant’s offense, as did Terrill Toe (30) and Kealen Ives (29) for Classical.

In the game prior to the one against Classical, Beckford lit up East Providence for 37 points – 30 coming on 10 three-point shots – as Mount Pleasant beat the Townies, 61-55.

Elsewhere:
  • Cumberland moved into a first-place tie with North Providence in Division II-North by whipping II-South leader Westerly, 69-53. Dylan Boisclair (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Tom Lazaras (10 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles for Cumberland (7-2) while the Bulldogs fell to 8-1.
  • Middletown remained atop the Division III-East standings by belting Toll Gate, 60-47. Justin Bailey (15 points) led a quartet of Islanders in double figures.
  • North Smithfield (8-0), who plays in III-North, is the only other undefeated Division III team in the state.
CAVALIERS SEEK REPEAT
Juanita Sanchez cruised through an undefeated season in 2011-12 and captured the first Division III girls’ basketball championship in school history.

With approximately one-third of the season in the books, the Cavaliers again appear to be the team to beat.

Two victories over intra-city rivals enhanced that status as the Cavaliers moved into a first-place tie (6-0) with Middletown.

Freshman Elfeda Hoff scored 12 points, snared seven rebounds and dished off seven assists in barely 16 minutes of playing time as the Cavaliers routed Hope, 44-24.

Previously, in a game against another team that was undefeated at the time, Juanita Sanchez beat Central, 44-32, with Hoff scoring 23 points and adding five steals. Teammate Leoni Taylor contributed a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds).

In other games of note:
  • St. Raphael Academy (4-0) moved into sole possession of first place in Division II-Central after outing previously undefeated Moses Brown, 63-35. Becca Gonzalez’s name was all over the stat sheet because besides recording a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) she was credited with five steals and four assists.
  • Josie Chaves buried the game-winning basket with 15 seconds left in regulation to give Rogers a 50-47 victory over East Providence in a Division II-East game that featured two undefeated team. Liz Jackson added 17 points for the Vikings (4-0) while Mary Monagle scored a career-high 20 points for the Townies (3-1).
OAKERS HAVE HIGH HOPES
Coventry’s boys’ hockey team commenced the current season with consecutive Division II state championships on its resume – and five overall titles.

Now, because of a new playoff format adopted by the Interscholastic League, the Oakers could get a shot at dethroning the big kids on the block – Mount St. Charles, La Salle, Hendricken, etc.

A Division I Super Four Tournament will be held for the first time this season with the four slots going to the four teams that have compiled the most points (i.e. power points) in the combined standings of Mount, La Salle and Hendricken in the Division I-Cimini subdivision plus the five public schools in the Division I-Eccleston subdivision.

Through games of January 14, the Oakers were tied for third with Mount in the combined standings with 3.6 power points.

Hendricken was at the top of the pile with 8.8 while La Salle was second with 5.4.

The 3-3 Oakers boast two of the top scoring leaders in the state in Mike Pesola and Zach Woods.

Hendricken remained undefeated (6-0-0) by beating Barrington, 6-3, with Andrew Fera notching a hat trick, and by blanking Mount, 4-0, as Mitchell Proulx made 44 saves which complemented Fera’s two-goal performance.

HAWKS LEAD THE WAY
Hendricken, which stunned high school football fans by upsetting highly-favored La Salle in the Division I Super Bowl, was rewarded with four selections on the All-State Football First Team: tight end Mario McClain, two-way lineman Nick DiCiantis, linebacker Jarrid Witherspoon’ and linebacker Mario Delvecchio.

Division II Super Bowl champ Cumberland landed cornerback/wide receiver Mitch Baxter and two-way end Trent Vasey; Division III bowl champ Middletown placed running back Randy Butler and offensive guard Mitch Sullivan on the first team; Division IV champ Mount Pleasant was represented by running back Randolph Zleh.

The remainder of the First Team was comprised on Cranston East’s Marven Beauvais (wide receiver), E.J. Isom (two-way back) and Marquem Monroe (two-way back); St. Raphael’s Jason Colon (two-way tackle); La Salle’s Mitch DaSilva (wide receiver), Josh Morris (La Salle) and Anthony Francis (quarterback); Cranston West’s Anthony St. Laurent (two-way lineman); Portsmouth’s Matt Greenman (linebacker-wide receiver), Bobby Chavous (quarterback); and Austin Szczepniak (running back); Johnston’s Evan Hopson (punter); Shea’s Baboucarr Lemon (place kicker); Chariho’s Austin McQuaide (running back); Tolman’s Mamour Samb (running back); and East Greenwich’s Kyle Palmer (defensive back).

PASSAGES
The state lost one of its most respected and amiable coaches with the passing of Burrillville’s Wilfred “Skee” Carter.

Carter, 66, coached baseball at his high school alma mater for 22 years and guided the Broncos to six state tournaments plus the 2007 Division II championship.

Between the middle school and high school, he also coached cross country for 22 years.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
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Bizzare. Unfair. Puzzling.

Rhode IslandTake your pick but each of the above adjectives is applicable when discussing the situation involving East Providence High coaches.

First, the back story. The financially-strapped city has been operating for a year under a state-appointed Budget Commission which oversees the city’s finances. But for reasons which have yet to be announced, fall sports coaches were unpaid for their work even though $120,000 was budgeted.

But when Dec. 14 dawned and fall coaches still had yet to receive their checks, EP alumnus Alex Butler – who coaches the boys’ volleyball and boys’ basketball teams – organized a walkout by winter sports team coaches. Other prominent Townie coaches who sided with Butler were girls’ basketball coaches Mike Solitro and Dan Cabral plus wrestling coach Tom Galligan.

Among other things, a highly-anticipated game between East Providence and Hendricken which had been scheduled for the Dec. 14 was postponed.

Now, flash forward to Dec. 17. Fall sports coaches finally received their checks but the reason for the “glitch” still was unexplained.

That’s not the whole story. While winter and spring sports coach salaries are still in the negotiation process, the Budget Commission has proposed a 60-percent reduction in each coach’s salary.

The Budget Commission is scheduled to meet on Jan. 3. Then, more will be known about the state of negotiations – which depending on what happens – theoretically could evoke another work stoppage by the Townie coaches.

STUCK IN LOW GEAR
To say that Central and Hope, the teams that played in the 2012 Division I boys’ basketball championship game last March are off to a slow start would be a major understatement.

The Knights, who rolled the Blue Wave in the finals, are 0-3, having lost to Cranston West, South Kingstown and North Kingstown.

Hope is 0-2 with losses to perennial power Hendricken (36-35) and North Kingstown on its record.

Without question Central was hurting in its season opener against the Falcons because potential leading scorer Jerrelle Washington was sidelined with an injury. But Washington returned against the Rebels and scored 22 points.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Washington may have to average in the 20-plus neighborhood in order for the Knights to have a chance to defend their title.

Hope, meanwhile, failed to place at least one player in double figures in each of its first two league games.

Two players who were expected to share the bulk of the scoring load, Johnson Weah and Manny Kargbo, only managed three points apiece in the loss to North Kingstown.

CORREA’S PLAY “SAINTLY”
Barring injury or another unforeseen circumstance, St. Raphael Academy senior guard Charles Correa could become just the second Saint in school history to be voted First Team All-State honors for three consecutive years.

Correa, the only returning player from SRA’s 2011 state championship team, was named the Most Valuable Player in the 27th annual Dennis M. Lynch Jr. Memorial Tournament which the Saints captured by beating Providence Country Day, 85-64, in the finals.

Correa scored 35 points, dished out 11 assists and snared five rebounds in the process of becoming the first player in tournament history to walk off with three consecutive MVP trophies.

When the Saints began league play, Correa scored 21 points as the Saints routed North Smithfield, 72-59.

WESTERLY’S CILLEY MAKES HISTORY
That Westerly senior Austin Cilley would surpass the 1,000-point mark for his career was a foregone conclusion.

Cilley reached that plateau when he poured in a career-high 42 points as the Bulldogs beat Prout, 69-51, in a Division II-East game. Cilley finished the game with seven 3-point baskets which gave him 169 for his career – the most ever by a boy or girl in school history.

GETTING OFF THE MAT
The beginning of the wrestling season fell under a good news-tragic news headline.

The good news was that venerable Cumberland coach Steve Gordon commenced his 44th year at the helm.

The tragic news was the passing of 37-year-old George Schmeider, who had been involved in the sport in Warwick at various levels for several years.

Gordon founded the Cumberland program in 1968 and has captured four state championships (1979, 2005, 2010 and 2012).

Moreover, the Clippers have been runners-up more times than Gordon cares to remember (in some years the Clippers have lost by the scantest of margins – one point and 1.5 points, for example).

Cumberland again could be the team to beat since it returns six starters: senior co-captains Erik Travers (152) and Jon Maccini (145); Chris Hayes (171); Nick Tribelli (132); Cody Beaudette (113); and Chris Nordby (120).

Schmeider passed away on Dec. 3 after a short illness.

He was a volunteer coach at Warwick Vets from 1999-2004 and the head coach from 2004-2010.

Schmeider returned to volunteer status as the associate head coach in 2011, when former head coach Make Nappa returned to that position. The reason Schmeider gave for his decision was so that another coach could earn the assistant’s stipend.

A Vets alumnus where he wrestled and played baseball, Schmeider established a free after-school fitness program at Gorton Junior High in 2011 after the city eliminated funding for intramurals.

Schmeider was a health and physical education teacher at Gorton.

MAKING A BIG SPLASH
There are shocking upsets and there are upsets that activate the Richter Scale.

That was the case during the first week of the swimming season when North Kingstown upset 23-time defending state champion Hendricken, 49-45.

Boris Paralliticci (50 and 100 freestyles) and Mike Toolin (200 and 500 freestyles) each won two individual events and swam a leg on two relay teams as the Skippers handed the Hawks only their second dual-meet loss since the 2001-02 season.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

November, 6, 2012
11/06/12
4:24
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If they haven’t already, Rhode Island high school football fans should circle Nov. 9 on their calendars.

Rhode IslandThat’s when La Salle and Hendricken – arguably the top two teams in the state regardless of division – will meet at the Hawks’ field with the Division I championship at stake.

La Salle (6-0) and Hendricken (6-1) established that scenario last weekend when the Rams blasted Cranston East, 41-12, and the Hawks flew by Barrington, 18-6.

If the Rams prevail and also beat East Providence (1-5) on Thanksgiving, they’ll clinch the outright title plus the No. 1 seed in the Division I Tournament. But should the Rams lose to the Townies and the Hawks beat La Salle, each team would finish 7-1, and Hendricken would earn the top seed by virtue of having beaten La Salle.

All-State running back Josh Morris shredded Cranston East’s defense as he scored four touchdowns – for the second consecutive year against the Thunderbolt. Morris’s scores came on runs of 19, 20, 18 and 30 yards.

In addition quarterback Anthony Francis threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Keon Wilson and scored on a one-yard run.

In its previous game, La Salle only led Barrington 17-14 at halftime but exploded for 24 points in the second half and coasted to a 41-17 victory.

Morris again led the way by running 12 times for 122 yards and two scores.

Ironically, Cranston East was coming off one of the more dramatic victories in school history.

Coach Tom Centore’s team spotted Portsmouth a 25-point lead at halftime and then rallied for a 51-47 victory.

E.J. Isom scored on a three-yard run with three minutes left on the clock to cap the comeback and set up the Bolt’s big game versus La Salle.

DIVISION II PICTURE IN FOCUS
As a result of last weekend’s games, the pairings are set for the Division II Tournament.

Johnston (7-0), Mount Hope (5-2), Woonsocket (5-2) and Westerly (4-3) earned the top four spots in Division II-A.

In Division II-B, undefeated Cumberland (7-0) earned the No. 1 seed followed by No. 2 St. Raphael (5-2), No. 3 West Warwick (4-3) and No. 4 Rogers (4-3).

Because West Warwick, Rogers and Central each finished 4-3, tiebreakers determined the last two seeds and Central became the odd team out.

Johnston finished strong by winning each of its last two games, 38-10 over Westerly and 42-6 over Warwick Vets.

In the victory over Westerly, Evan Hopson caught a pair of touchdown passes, kicked a 27-yard field goal and converted three-of-four extra-point attempts.

Hopson was just as prolific against the Hurricanes since he again caught two touchdown passes and returned a fellow Panther’s fumble for a third score.

ISLANDERS MAKE HISTORY
Don’t waste your time delving through the record books to find the last year when Middletown completed an undefeated regular season in league play (in this case Division III).

At the least, that happened four decades ago - perhaps when the parents of the current Islanders were youngsters. And, if Middletown beats Tolman and Portsmouth in a pair of non-league games, it will record an undefeated regular season – period.

Middletown, which has outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 339-96, handed East Greenwich its first loss of the season, 20-7.

Junior Connor Ross accounted for each of Middletown’s touchdowns on runs of 13, 27 and five yards. Ross clinched the victory when he intercepted a pass with one minute remaining at the Islanders’10-yard line.

Also in Division III, Moses Brown (5-2) clinched a playoff berth by routing Burrillville, 31-13.

Andrew Howard paced the Quakers by rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

KILTIES REIGN IN DIVISION IV
Mount Pleasant put the wraps on an undefeated Division IV season by blanking Central Falls, 33-0.

Randolph Zish paced the Kilties (7-0) by amassing 275 rushing yards and each of his team’s five touchdowns.

The field for the Division IV Tournament is just about set.

Hope (6-1) will have the second seed while North Providence (4-2) and North Smithfield (4-2) will battle for the fourth and final seed.

HAWKS REMAIN DOMINANT
Few teams have dominated boys’ cross country like Hendricken. The Hawks annexed their fifth consecutive state championship on Nov. 4 by scoring 44 points – 20 fewer than second-place La Salle.

Hendricken’s points were accounted for by Connor Doyle (fourth), Colin Tierney (fifth), Tyler Henseler (seventh), Alex Doherty (135h) and Collin Manning (15th).

The Hawks added the state trophy to the Class A championship they had captured the previous week.

Trevor Crawley became the first Cumberland runner to notch the state individual title in 14 years by covering the 5000-meter course at Ponganset High in 15:39.47. That time was 20 seconds faster than second-place finisher Bryce Kelley of Chariho.

BARRINGTON GIRLS DOUBLE UP
The Barrington girls may have needed a trailer to carry home all the trophies they annexed at the state cross country championships on Nov. 4 at Ponaganset.

As a team, Barrington easily captured its second consecutive state title by scoring a mere 31 points – 40 less than second-place La Salle.

In addition, freshman Emma McMillan won the individual title with a time of 18:22.99 on the 5000-meter course.

According to Interscholastic League records, McMillan is the first freshman female to win the individual championship since 1995. She finished 8.5 seconds ahead of La Salle’s Sheridan Wilbur.

After McMillan, Megan Vener-Crist (fourth), Fiona Paine (eight), Julianna Portelli (ninth) and Abigail Livingston (12th) rounded out Barrington’s first five finishers.

LINCOLN TRIO OFF TO COLLEGE
When Nov. 14 rolls around, three Lincoln High student-athletes will sign National Letters of Intent.

All-State pitcher Lindsay Mayer will sign with Virginia while teammate Emily Bouthillete will remain in state and sign with Bryant University.

All-Stater Nick Zammarell will head south and play baseball with Elon University in North Carolina.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
5:50
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La Salle Academy moved into sole possession of first place in Division I without having to score a single point or make any tackles.

Rhode IslandInstead, the Rams might be inclined to send a “thank you” note to Portsmouth.

The Patriots pulled off the upset of the season in the state’s top division by belting previously undefeated and defending state champion Hendricken, 39-14, on Oct. 20.

As a result, the Rams (4-0) are the division’s only undefeated team while Hendricken (5-1) fell to second followed by Portsmouth (4-1) and Cranston East (3-1).

Obviously, if the Rams run the table they’ll earn the No. 1 seed in the Division I Tournament (the top four teams qualify for post-season play).

Portsmouth led by a tenuous 9-7 margin at halftime but erupted for 30 points in the third quarter.

Quarterback Bob Chavous was a one-man wrecking crew as he passed the Hawks dizzy by completing 14-of-20 passes for two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Matt Sewall led Portsmouth receivers with six receptions for 55 yards.

Chavous also led the Patriots ground game. He carried the ball 18 times for 170 yards and one touchdown.

The loss took some of the luster off Hendricken’s 21-14 victory over Cranston East on October 12.

Quarterback Patrick Gill snapped a 14-14 tie when he scored on a one-yard run with 2:02 left on the clock.

Cranston East hosts Hendricken on Friday night in what will be the key game in Division I this week.

ISLANDERS “STRAND” QUAKERS
In the previous six years Middletown has played in three Division IV Super Bowls (winning in 2006) and two Division III bowls (winning in 2010) – including 2011 when it was knocked off by Aquidneck Island rival Rogers.

The Islanders remained in contention for the top seed in the Division III Tournament by defeating Moses Brown, 35-13.

Connor Russ paced the Islanders (6-0) by scoring on runs of 18, 21 and 22 yards and combined with Randy Butler for just over 200 yards on the ground.

East Greenwich (4-0) is in second place – which means when the Avengers host the Islanders on November 12, first place and the top seed could (should?) be at stake.

PETERSON UNSTOPPABLE
Ponaganset (2-3) is in a five-team traffic jam for one of the last two playoff berths in Division III.

If the Chieftains qualify for the playoffs, it will be due in large part to the play of running back Scott Peterson.

Over his last two games, Peterson has been virtually unstoppable.

Peterson carried the ball 31 times for 269 yards and scored each of Ponaganset’s four touchdowns during a 27-0 blanking of Classical.

The previous week, in a 24-12 non-league victory over Toll Gate, Peterson shredded the Titans defense for 322 yards and five touchdowns – each of which was a school record.

KILTIES STATE THEIR CASE
Even though this is the campaign season, Mount Pleasant doesn’t need to take out an ad in local newspapers to state its case as perhaps the best team in Division IV.

The Kilties did their talking on a soggy field last weekend when they beat Smithfield, 35-6.

As a result, Mount Pleasant (5-0) is alone in first place, a half-game ahead of Hope (5-1).

The Kilties visit the Blue Wave on November 10 and can clinch the top seed for the playoffs with a victory.

Sophomore Stephen Young slogged his way to scoring runs of five and 67 yards while Joe Putu returned an interception 50 yards on the final play of the third quarter which set up a six-yard touchdown run by Montrell Hopper that put the game out of reach.

COMING UP ACES
The R.I.I.L. girls’ tennis season came to an end over the weekend when the state singles title plus three team championships were decided.

East Greenwich’s Alexsandra Drljaca dropped the first set to Smithfield’s Jenna LaBarre but rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory in the singles finals – which made her the first Avenger female to win a state singles title.

Ironically, Drljaca had defeated LaBarre in three sets during a regular-season match.

La Salle put the finishing touches on an undefeated season (14-0) by blanking Mount St. Charles, 4-0, for the Division I team title.

The Rams, who now have captured four state titles, received three of their four points from their doubles teams: Emily Carranza and Caroline Dunn; Annie Venditti and Natalie Pitocco; and Briana Hanson and Caitlin Wrag.

Amanda Pitocco accounted for the lone singles point.

Portsmouth emulated La Salle by also wrapping up an undefeated season (14-0) by beating Classical, 4-0, in the Division II finals.

Julia Harrigan and Kathryn Harper prevailed in singles while the doubles teams of Taylor MacLeod and Caroline Farrow plus Jamie Hole and Paige Colman annexed the other two points.

Mount Hope rebounded from a 4-8 season in 2011 to capture the Division III team title, edging previously undefeated Coventry 4-3 in the finals.

With the match tied at 3-3, juniors Marisa Silva and Destinee DeSousa captured a three-set match at No. 1 doubles.

PASSAGES
Rhode Island lost one of its most ardent advocates for high school sports with the passing on October 24 of Pete Connell in his hometown of Smithfield.

For over two decades while writing for either The Observer or The Valley Breeze, Connell was a fixture at games involving teams in the western and northern parts of the state.

Connell was equally as respected as a high school baseball umpire.

As a testament to Connell, the entire Smithfield High boys’ soccer team paid their respects at his wake.

THE AXE FALLS
What had been on the drawing board became fact when East Providence’s state-appointed Budget Commission passed a $154-million budget that, among other things, eliminated sports at the city’s two middle schools.

At the moment, this is just a one-year cut. But that caveat notwithstanding, the loss of middle school sports should have a negative impact on East Providence High’s varsity sports (especially football, basketball and baseball), which will now be deprived of their feeder programs.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
10:18
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Cranston East last won a Division I Super Bowl in 1987 – which, of course, was well before the players on the current team were born.

Rhode IslandBut the Thunderbolt have an opportunity to prove they’re a legitimate contender this season when they play at defending Division I Super Bowl champion Hendricken on October12.

Coach Tom Centore’s team set the stage for this matchup of undefeated teams when it waxed East Providence, 42-20, on Oct. 5. Quarterback Alex Corvese threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers – all in the first half – as the ‘Bolt bolted to a 28-7 lead. Covese’s longest strike was a 46-yarder to Marquem Monroe. Nicholas Ferry caught a 28-yard TD pass just before halftime and, in the third quarter, returned a punt 35 yards for a score that broke the game open.

Hendricken (4-0) and La Salle (4-0) are tied for the division lead, but Cranston East (3-0) is only a half-game back and is 5-0 overall.

The Hawks tuned up for the ‘Bolt by blanking Cranston West, 36-0, as quarterback Pat Gill ran for three scores passed for a fourth. In its previous game, the Hawks whipped Tolman, 28-7, converting three turnovers into three touchdowns in the process. Gill scored on a one-yard run and also connected with Marco DelVecchio on a 52-yard scoring bomb.

La Salle remained tied with Hendricken by whipping winless South Kingstown, 39-14, as quarterback Anthony Francis threw touchdown passes of 21 and 63 yards to Keon Wilson.

PANTHERS ON THE PROWL
Johnston maintained its status as the only undefeated team (4-0) in Division II-A by mauling Coventry, 26-6.

The final score was representative of how explosive the Panthers have been this season. In those four league games, they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 154-18.

Johnston built a 14-0 lead with five minutes left in the first half, thanks to a six-yard run by Brenden Pappas and a two-yard run by Joe Santilli.

WIZARDS DISAPPEAR – TEMPORARILY
West Warwick was knocked from the ranks of the undefeated in Division II-B when it was routed, 42-14, by Shea on September 28. Dennis Lloyd paced the Raiders with three touchdowns while Tyshon Ashe added a pair.

Cumberland, who blitzed North Kingstown 41-6, moved into sole possession of first place with a 4-0 record. Quarterback Brendan Guerin led the Clippers by passing for 132 yards and three scores.

The Wizards (3-1) rebounded the following week as they pasted Pilgrim, 41-6, with Austin Paygal running for four scores – including one that covered 66 yards.

AROUND THE GRIDIRON
Elsewhere, East Greenwich toppled previously-undefeated Moses Brown, 39-21, in Division III action. Carney Crawford paced the Avengers (4-0) with 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Andrew Minor passed for 117 yards and three scores.

Middletown (3-0) remained a half-game behind the Avengers thanks to a 48-20 victory over Tiverton. The Islanders’ Randy Butler had a career game as he carried the ball 12 times for 149 yards and a touchdown and also returned a kickoff 70 yards for another score.

Overall, Middletown amassed 428 yards of total offense against the Tigers. Middletown gave a premonition of things to come when it belted Ponaganset, 48-7, in its previous game. Butler also was a force in that game since he scored on a 31-yard run and caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Justin Sellers.

In other games of note:
* Mount Hope (2-2) evened its record in Division II-A by beating Woonsocket, 26-7, with Jesse Raiola rushing for 125 yards and three scores.

* Central Falls captured its first Division IV victory of the season by blanking Scituate, 42-0. Quarterback Brandon Canuto threw four touchdown passes – three to Odair Semedo.

* Classical also won its first league game, in Division III, by holding off Burrillville, 16-14. Amilcar Burganza provided what proved to be the winning score when he returned an interception 50 yards in the fourth quarter.

MILESTONE
Long-time Portsmouth boys’ soccer coach Mike Stinton recently annexed his 200th career victory as the Patriots blanked South Kingstown, 1-0. Stinton was appointed Portsmouth’s head coach in 1989.

Then, the following week, the Patriots (5-3-0) won their fifth consecutive Division I game, 5-1 over Tolman as Brendan Jumoas scored two goals and assisted on two.

RUNNING WILD
The East Greenwich boys’ cross-country team ventured north and captured the team title in the Woods Trail Run Invitational in Thetford, Vt.

The Avengers amassed 107 points – 29 better than second-place South Burlington (Vt.) High. Ben Fazio (6th), Garrett Scanlon (18th), Scott Kulm (23rd), Nat Waddell (26th) and Tom Sommer (34th) accounted for the Avengers’ scoring.

NO “MIDDLE” GROUND
What had been rumored is on the verge of becoming fact.

East Providence, which had accumulated a $7-million budget deficit and has been operating under a state-appointed Budget Commission, will eliminate middle school sports as part of a proposed plan to help get the city out of the red. Football, basketball and baseball, which have long served as successful feeder programs for East Providence High, would be the primary sports on the chopping block if the overall proposal is approved by November 1.

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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
4:30
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When the Rhode Island Interscholastic League was founded in 1932, Westerly was one of the original schools to play football.

Rhode IslandChariho, which is roughly a long field goal from Westerly, didn’t add football until 16 years ago.

While games between Division I teams like Hendricken, La Salle, East Providence and Portsmouth invariably dominate the headlines, Westerly and Chariho have forced their way into the spotlight.

In fact, the Chargers captured the 2011 Division II Super Bowl championship – the first in school history but five less than the Bulldogs have amassed.

Westerly made an early bid for the Division II-A regular-season title on September 21 by biting the Chargers, 35-14.

The teams were tied 14-14 at halftime but Westerly (2-0) went ahead for good in the third quarter when quarterback Phil Lynch ran four yards for a touchdown.

Westerly broke the game open in the fourth when Tom McGuire also ran four yards for a score and Rob Lamotte followed by returning a punt 45 yards for a touchdown.

Max Bumarch scored Westerly’s first touchdown when he reeled off a 44-yard run midway through the opening quarter.

RAM TOUGH
La Salle remained undefeated (2-0) in Division I by posting a pair of impressive victories.

First, the Rams overcame an 11-7 deficit and rallied to beat Portsmouth, 42-25 as senior running back Josh Morris scored four touchdowns which accounted for 24 of the Rams’ points while Tyrell Cooper returned a kickoff 87 yards for a score and later caught a 42-yard pass from quarterback Anthony Francis.

That set up a three-yard scoring run by Martin Bannerman.

Then, a week later, La Salle defeated Tolman, 42-20 with Morris shredding the Tigers’ defense for 180 yards and two scores on only 14 carries.

Francis provided balance to La Salle’s offense by completing 12-of-18 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns.

(Read full post)

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.

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