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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

9/22/2010

At the risk of stating the obvious, one game doesn’t make a season regardless of sport. But that being said, there was more than “casual” interest in the Division I football opener on Sept. 17 for perennial powers Hendricken and La Salle Academy.

Rhode IslandThe Hawks beat the Rams, 24-12, and enhanced their status as one of the two or three teams to beat not only in the race for the regular-season title but also for a probable Super Bowl championship.

From 1991 through 2009, either Hendricken or La Salle played in the Division I Super Bowl in 18 of 19 seasons.

Even though the Hawks were hit fairly hard by players who followed the “Cap and Gown Route” last June – players from a team that lost to Barrington in the Super Bowl – Hendricken isn’t exactly lacking for talent.

That was never more evident than in the Hawks’ win over the Rams – especially as far as Hendricken’s defense, which is led by senior All-State linebacker Ethan Ferreira, - is concerned.

By the time the final gun sounded, Hendricken had blocked two punts (Ryan Brannigan smothered one ball in the end zone for a touchdown), intercepted three passes and threw up a goal-line stand that would have been the envy of any NFL team.

Hendricken led by the eventual final score when La Salle marched to a first-and-goal on the 3 with 15 ticks of the clock remaining.

Four plays went nowhere and the Hawks emerged with a key, early-season victory.

“TERRIFIC” TOWNIES

East Providence’s Townies made news on and off the field. But what they did off the field may be of more importance and underscored the meaning of “Townie Pride.”

Throughout the summer and up until the start of school, approximate 20 members of the varsity football team gave up their Saturday mornings to make lunches and deliver them to Crossroads Rhode Island – a homeless shelter in Providence.

And, on the final Saturday, the Townies who participated not only made lunches but also paid for the groceries that went into the lunches.

On average, the Townies made 125 lunches per week.

“I think the kids learned that there are a lot people who aren’t as fortunate as them,” said assistant coach Shane Messier. “What they received (in return) wasn’t tangible but it was the gratification that comes when you help people in need.”

On the field, the Townies belted North Kingstown, 42-0, in their Division I opener on Sept. 17.

The Townies, who are considered a favorite to win the division (along with Hendricken and La Salle), were led by Jalin Braxton who rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries – in the first half alone.

EXTRA POINTS

Following is a list of other football highlights from the first league weekend of the season:

  • Al Georgio, who was the Most Valuable Player for Exeter-West Greenwich – the 2009 Division IV Super Bowl champ – rushed for a mind-boggling 345 yards and scored 32 points (30 on touchdowns and two on a conversion run) as the Scarlet Knights beat North Providence, 40-20.

  • Mike Washington accounted for 188 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries as Central routed Warwick Veterans in a Division II game. In addition, Washington caught three passes for 96 yards and two scores.

  • Austin Szcepaniak ran for touchdowns of 55, 60 and 20 yards as Portsmouth beat Cranston East, 35-16, in the teams’ Division I opener.

PASSAGES

The Rhode Island sports community was saddened by the passing of three high school sports icons: Lou Cimini, Leo Kraunelis and Henri “Hank” Ethier.

  • Cimini, who graduated from La Salle in 1939, spent the vast majority of his adult life at the school both as a teacher and coach. He compiled a career record of 572-185-34 as the varsity hockey coach. His teams qualified for the playoffs 31 times in 32 years and reached the finals 21 times (while playing in the top division). The Rams also annexed five state championships and one New England title. Of all the awards he received in his lifetime, arguably the most noteworthy was a Presidential citation from Dwight D. Eisenhower for “Outstanding Service to Youth.”

  • Kraunelis founded the boys’ hockey team at Barrington High in the early 1970s. He taught history and government at Hope High in Providence and also coached the school’s football, hockey and golf teams. An All-State selection in football, hockey and baseball (for three consecutive years in each sport) while a student a Burrillville High, Kraunelis later played football and hockey at Boston College.

  • Ethier was a basketball star at the old Pawtucket High and Pawtucket East from 1939-41 (the city split into two high schools in 1941). He played on a state championship team and a team that reached the finals of the 1940 New England Tournament. Ethier led the state in scoring in 1940 and earned First Team All-State honors in 1941.

GETTING A “KICK”

Heading into this week’s action, the La Salle girls’ soccer team was ranked 21st in the nation in the U.S. Soccer Coaches Association’s Top 25 poll. Shortly after the poll was released, the Rams won twice to improve their record to 4-0-0.

Both the boys’ teams from La Salle and Shea earned a spot in that Top 25 poll.

Shea was ranked 16th while La Salle was ranked 23rd.

The teams closed out last week with 3-0-2 records.

DOUBLE DRIBBLES

South Kingstown’s Annie Lawler recently gave a verbal commitment to play basketball at George Mason University.

Lawler, a 6-foot forward, led the Rebels to the Division I-South championships last season and, in the process, scored the 1,000th point of her career (Remember, she only was a junior at the time).

Lawler finished with averages of 17.8, 6.8 and 1.7 in points, rebounds and blocked shots, respectively.

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.