Boston High School: Emmanuel Leake

R.I. football playoff matchups coming into focus

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
1:36
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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)

A loss in victory for Barrington (R.I.) football

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
5:14
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According to Wikipedia, the following is a definition of a Pyrrhic victory: “A victory with such a devastating cost that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way. However, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit."

Rhode IslandIn retrospect, that’s the perfect way to describe Barrington’s 7-6 Division I victory last Friday over La Salle Academy.

While the victory enabled the Eagles to remain undefeated (6-0) in league play and set up a showdown for first place on Friday at Hendricken (6-0), with the winner virtually assured of the No. 1 seed in the upcoming state tournament, it came with a hefty cost.

The Eagles’ star running back/defensive back James Murphy tore a quadriceps muscle during a third quarter drive, ironically, on a play in which he wasn’t tackled, but slid to the turf similar to a baseball player sliding into a base.

Murphy, who leads the Eagles with 10 touchdowns, was helped off the field in obvious pain.

“He’s probably out for the season,” said Eagles coach Bill McCagney. “If that’s the case, we’ll probably rely more on Nick Jensen at running back and defensive back.

“Nick hasn’t started or us. But he’s proven to be our best defensive back. At least he’ll come in fresh.”

After Friday’s key game, each team only has one league game remaining (each plays a non-league game on Thanksgiving).

Since the first tiebreaker is record in head-to-head competition it’s obvious what’s at stake for each team – moreso for the Eagles who’ve now lost one-half of their 1-2 punch (John Martin lines up with Murphy).

SAINTLY REVIVAL: During the 1980s and the 1990s, St. Raphael Academy (which invariably has one of the smallest male enrollments in the state) was a dominant team whether the Saints played in Division I or in Division II.

The Saints captured the 1982 and 1983 Division II Super Bowls, the 1984 Division I Super Bowl and the 1999 Division II Super Bowl. But a decline in male enrollment led to the Saints dropping off the proverbial radar screen.

But that’s not the case this season, as evidenced by the Saints’ most recent victory – a 54-34 shootout over previous Division II-B leader North Kingstown.

The victory was notable for two reasons:

* The Saints amassed a season-high point total against a team that stepped on the Pariseau Field turf averaging 34 points per game and was beaten at its own game.

* St. Raphael (4-2 in II-B and 4-3 overall) now is a strong contender for a tournament berth.

“Our kids heard all week that North Kingstown had the best offense in the league,” said SRA coach Mike Sassi, a Saint alumnus. “We wanted to prove that we also have a good offense.

“In this game, we came out in more of a spread formation which may have caught them off-guard. Their linebackers tend to play outside and sometimes they have six defenders outside the box. We tried to run inside on them.”

For all intents and purposes, the Saints ran rough-shed over the Skippers (4-2, 7-2) as they amassed an impressive 473 yards in total offense. In the process, SRA scored 27 points in your basic wild third quarter.

James Kelley paced the Saints by rushing for three touchdowns and catching a pass for another while quarterback Emmanuel Leake also ran for three scores and threw that touchdown pass to Kelley.

When the dust finally settled, a traffic jam worthy of a tie-up on Route 95 in Providence existed in the standings.

Cumberland (5-1, 7-2) is in first place. But St. Raphael, North Kingstown, Rogers (4-2, 5-4) and West Warwick (4-2, 6-3) are in a five-way tie for second.

“If we wind up with a five-way tie, I don’t know how that would work out,” said Sassi.

That scenario could be partially resolved this weekend when West Warwick plays Cumberland and if SRA, NK and the Vikings each win. But SRA catches a break when it closes out league play on Friday against winless Pilgrim.

KILTIES IN GOOD SHAPE: Mount Pleasant, which moved up this season from Division IV to Division III, is on the verge of annexing the regular-season championship.

Coach Paul Rao’s Kilties (7-0 overall) are 6-0 in league play, while second-place Moses Brown is 6-1. Since the Kilties beat the Quakers, 16-13, on Sept. 27, they own the first tiebreaker.

The Kilties will face another test on Friday when they visit third-place Middletown (5-2, 7-2) while the Quakers play at Burrillville (3-3, 5-3).

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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