Boston High School: Moses Brown

La Salle (R.I.) lacrosse building a dynasty

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
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La Salle Academy’s boys’ lacrosse team began the 2014 season with back-to-back Division I state championship trophies in the school’s trophy case.

Rhode IslandBut don’t waste your breath asking coach Steve O’Donnell if he expects to add a third consecutive state championship trophy.

“I try not to have expectations,” said O’Donnell, whose team has defeated Hendricken, 16-7, and North Kingstown, 17-5, in the young season. “Obviously, you want to win as much as you can. We have expectations to have a good program and be as competitive as everybody else.

“Be the best you can be and the rest just falls into place.”

O’Donnell, who’s in his ninth season as the La Salle’s head coach, invariably has the Rams among the top teams in the state. As far as he’s concerned, there isn’t a magic formula for the program’s success.

“Continuity, good players and a good system,” O’Donnell said, “they’re successful because a lot of them want to learn and get better.

He continued, “I’m a practice guy. I try to do new things and get them out of the box. They all come from different places but it’s a double-edged sword. Where I am, people say we get to pick the cream of the crop and we get to pick who we want. They pick us. Then, you coach them up. They have different habits. And what’s also important is the school supports the program which has been successful.”

How true.

La Salle ended a drought by beating Moses Brown, 9-7, for its first state championship in 2012 and then vanquished the Quakers again last season by a score of 14-3.

But prior to annexing that initial state title, the Rams were the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s version of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. La Salle lost 10-2 to Hendricken in the 2004 finals, 13-10, to North Kingstown in 2008, 9-8, in overtime to Moses Brown in 2010, and, 6-4, to Hendricken in 2011.

Was there ever a sense that, no matter how hard they tried, the Rams would be unable to capture that elusive state title?

“To me, this is high school sports,” said O’Donnell. “I don’t judge kids by winning championships. It’s an unintended consequence. I measure them by their improvement, especially in terms of the type of kids they become and if they’re coachable.

“When you lose at that level, you question yourself as a coach. I prepare as much as I can. Then, you hope for a lack of injuries which happen in every sport.”

Injuries notwithstanding, the Rams have gone 10-0 in league play in each of the last two seasons. But winning streaks are the least of O’Donnell’s concerns.

“None of that matters to me because we lost a game (13-7 to Medfield in an out-of-state contest),” he said. “I’m not concerned about wins and losses. I am concerned about getting better. Our goal from the beginning of the season to the end is to get better.”

Not only did the Rams get better en route to the 2012 state title but they also endured hardships that might have derailed a lesser team.

“I think winning the first (state title) was difficult in terms of letting the kids know they were good enough to win it,” said O’Donnell. “Two of our top three players were injured at mid-season and that team came together. They learned to win as a team.

“The hardest part, regardless of high school or the pros, is to keep the kids humble. It’s the hardest thing in coaching. I always tell them that, one year, the Jets lost to the Patriots by 40 points and then they beat them the next time they played.”

Winning this season will be difficult from the standpoint that La Salle graduated four First Team All-State selections: attack Brady O’Donnell, who earned All-American honors for a third straight year and set a state record last season by scoring 64 goals to go with his 35 assists; faceoff specialist Pat Foster, who won 70 percent of his faceoffs; midfielder Mike Catarina; and defender Dan Wise, who also was a high school All-American.

But, fortunately for O’Donnell, La Salle wasn’t decimated by graduation.

“We have returnees in three brothers, (defender) John, (attack) Joe and (midfielder) Matt Manown (who scored four goals and assisted on five in the victory over Hendricken),” said O’Donnell. “Joe (who scored 52 goals and assisted on 43) was an All-American last season.

“In addition, we also have senior midfielder Alex Handanyan and (2012 First Team All-State) goalie Matt Andrews. We have some talented younger kids. We plan on having them step in and fill that void. But we’re still figuring out who’s going to fit in the best.”

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.

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

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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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.

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
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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
4:08
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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

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

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
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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, 13, 2012
9/13/12
12:56
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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.

Moses Brown's Edwards learned through hard knocks

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
12:43
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Moses Brown School football coach Willie Edwards doesn’t mince words when discussing the role football’s played in his life.

“I don’t know where I would be without football,” said Edwards, who’s in his second year as the head coach and eighth overall on staff at the prestigious private school located on the city’s East Side. “It’s my life. It’s my passion. It’s who I am. It saved me. We weren’t handed anything in life. We had to work for what we wanted.

[+] EnlargeWillie Edwards
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comWillie Edwards embarks on his second season at the helm of Moses Brown football. He's been with the program for eight years.

“I really believe that I’m blessed and that God intended me to be around this sport and for this sport to save me and to influence kids the way I do now.”

The chance that Edwards, who’s also the Director of Johnson & Wales University’s Down City Campus Fitness Center, would be where he is now as a youngster growing up in West Warwick is the equivalent of the distance between the Earth and the moon.

“In ’82, my parents wanted to get us out of Providence and had an opportunity to move to Echo Valley,” recalled Edwards. “But that was a tough area. There was subsidized housing. It wasn’t the easiest neighborhood. There were a lot of single-parent families. The streets raised us. All of those guys, who’re my life-long friends, lived there. We had to look out for each other.

“There were people coming through the neighborhood doing things they weren’t supposed to do. There were some drugs and some violence. There were things we saw at a young age that you thought you wouldn’t see in West Warwick. But they were there.”

One positive that came from Edwards’ years in Echo Valley was that he became interested in sports.

“All of my friends played sports together,” he said. “When it was football season, we played football. When it was basketball season, we played basketball. In baseball season, we played baseball. That’s how I started in athletics.”

Then, as Edwards was entering his sophomore year at West Warwick High, his parents decided to split up.

“We had a violent household just like everyone else in my neighborhood,” he said. “My mother (the since-remarried Dianne Richardson) tried the best she could raising us (Edwards plus his younger sister Diana) by herself. It was very tough. But she got her freedom again by not having my father around.

“She was trying to raise two teenage kids who were finding themselves and were being influenced by other things. It was a tough situation but she did the best she could and I commend her for it.”

Enter Ray and Kathy Dube, who were teachers at Deering Junior High in West Warwick.

“I met them in the seventh grade and Ray recruited me to play football,” said Edwards. “I had Kathy the next year as an English teacher. From there, the relationship flourished. If I got in trouble in her class or elsewhere, Ray would come find me.

“And it didn’t stop there. I had some trouble in high school and they were my life raft. They got me back on track. They propelled me to where I am today.”

Back on track notwithstanding, Edwards’ problems still weren’t exactly in the rear-view mirror.

“In my junior year, at home there were the normal trials and tribulations of a kid who was lost,” he said. “I really messed it up going into my senior year. I was a dropout and went to a group home in Newport and Ray and Kathy found out.

“They set up tutoring for me. Kathy and Lisa Centore tutored me and got me eligible to play football. But I still was lost and still had influences going on. It got to the point there they had to get me out of that environment and under their wing. I moved into their house and lived with them for five years.”

The Dubes weren’t the only people who helped Edwards get his life pointed back in the right direction. That was the case with the late Steve Alves, who was the Wizards’ head coach at the time.

“I played three years for him and they were three of the best years of my life,” said Edwards. “The best way to describe him was tough love. He didn’t give me anything. He was tough on me. But when I did something right, he loved me.

“He let the whole team know, ‘It was my way. We’re not doing it any other way. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to be here.’”

After graduating high school, Edwards spent a year at Connecticut’s Kent School.

Then he played for two years at Rhode Island before transferring to Merrimack College and eventually graduating from Johnson & Wales.

Kent coach Tom Marble and Merrimack coach Tom Caito picked up where the Dubes and Alves left off.

“In prep school, coach Marble played a role in my life and when I went to Merrimack, coach Caito took me under his wing,” said Edwards. “He’s a very passionate person like I am about football. But it was a small college and I was away from everybody.

“Coach Caito would invite me over to his house to eat. He went over and beyond to make me feel as comfortable as possible.”
The lessons Edwards learned while climbing up the ladder of life are among the things he tries to impart to the Quakers.

“The main thing I preach to my kids is getting better every day,” he said. “As each day goes by, you’re either going to get worse or you’re going to get better. There’s no in-between.

“We teach our kids that nothing’s going to be given to you. Everything’s going to be earned. Nobody’s going to hand you a championship. You’re going to have to fight for it. When you get knocked down, it’s how you respond. What are you going to do next?”
The Laxachusetts club lacrosse team has announced college commitments for seven of its players in the class of 2013.

Here are the commitments with their respective high school teams and college choices:

Ben Becker, Moses Brown (R.I.) - Sacred Heart

Sam Chen, LSM, Lincoln-Sudbury - Amherst

Tucker Ciessau, Attack, Scituate - Bellarmine

Chris Giorgio, Midfield, Lincoln-Sudbury - Fairfield

J.P. Miller, Midfield, Belmont Hill - Middlebury

Quincy Nichols, LSM, Thayer Academy - Middlebury

George Ward, Defense, Duxbury - Amherst

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
2:37
PM ET
Over the years, La Salle Academy has won enough state championship trophies to fill a vault at Fort Knox.

Rhode IslandNow the school must make room for one that’s eluded it for years: a state championship trophy for boys’ lacrosse.

The Rams applied an exclamation point to an undefeated (14-0) season by beating Moses Brown School, 9-7, in the finals -- after losing in the finals each of the previous two seasons.

The championship also ended four years of frustration because coach Steve O’Donnell’s team had compiled the best regular-season record (54-3) during that span but had zero to show for its efforts.

What made this championship game even more noteworthy was the fact that underclassmen led the way over the Quakers (9-6).

Sophomore Peter DeSimone, who was voted the game’s MVP, scored three goals and assisted on three; junior Brady O’Donnell fired in three goals including his team’s last two which proved to be huge in the final outcome; and sophomore goalie Matt Andrews made eight saves in the crucial fourth quarter.

In other boys’ finals:

*At the risk of using a hockey metaphor, East Greenwich’s Ethan Zink scored a “pure” hat trick as the Avengers beat South Kingstown, 10-4, for the Division II championship. The Avengers (19-1) were leading by a slim 3-2 margin in the last minute of the second quarter when Zink scored for a 4-2 halftime lead. Then, Zink tallied the first two goals of the third quarter and the Avengers went on to clinch their second consecutive state title. EG goalie John Trutza came up big in net by making 19 saves.

*Smithfield senior Ryan Benoit made sure he would end his career in style by scoring three goals and assisting on another as the Sentinels whipped Narragansett, 12-6, for the Division III championship. Benoit’s younger brother, Ryan contributed three goals and two assists to the triumph.

QUAKER GIRLS “STICK” BARRINGTON
What the Moses Brown boys were unable to accomplish, the Quaker girls did, capturing a Division I lacrosse championship.

Coach Jeanne Carhart’s team completed an 18-1 season by defeating Barrington, 14-10, with senior Hannah Saris scoring two goals and assisting on five.

But what Saris meant to the Quakers’ offense so did goalie Jamie Marshall to the defense. The sophomore stopped 15 Eagles shots and earned the game’s MVP award.

Saris finished the season with 93 goals and 56 assists.

In the Division II championship game, junior middie Chloe Andrew scored four goals and assisted on three as Cumberland edged defending state champion Tiverton, 12-10.

The championship was the second in school history for the 17-1 Clippers.

OFF TO McCOY STADIUM
Hendricken and South Kingstown will make the much-anticipated bus ride to McCoy Stadium – home of the Pawtucket Red Sox – for the best-of-three Division I state baseball championship.

The Hawks punched their ticket to the finals by sweeping Coventry by identical scores of 3-2 (although the second game lasted 10 innings).

Tom Pannone, a senior pitcher/outfielder who last week was selected in the 33rd round by the Chicago Cubs, went the distance on a five-hitter and belted a solo homer in Game 1.

Then, in the clincher, Rob Hendry lined a one-out single in the top of the 10th which snapped a 2-2 tie.

Jake Newberry earned the victory by virtue of pitching three innings of scoreless relief.

Cumberland and South Kingstown split the first two games of their best-of-three semifinal series.

The Rebels won the opener, 4-3, but Cumberland evened the series with a 1-0 victory in Game 2 as Justin Patrick went the distance on a three-hitter.

The third and deciding game was over almost before it started because South Kingstown romped, 16-1. The game was called after 4 1/2 innings because of the Interscholastic League’s mercy rule.

Jeremy Swan earned the victory as he allowed only two hits and struck out six.

T.J. Lynch paced an 11-hit attack with a two-run single plus a solo home run.

Hendricken will be chasing its seventh state title in the last 10 years while the Rebels will be seeking their first since 2002.

Johnston and Prout will battle it out for the Division II title. Prout will be making is fifth consecutive trip to the best-of-three finals after beating Woonsocket in three games.

In the decisive third game, Kory Lawrence belted a two-run double and Marshall Vigneault allowed four hits as the Crusaders prevailed, 3-2.

Johnston also went to three games before eliminating Westerly with a 10-1 triumph in the final game.

Joe Bongiovanni went the distance for the Panthers as he allowed six hits. And at the plate he collected two hits which were good for three RBI.

LIONS NEAR DREAM SEASON
What were the odds before the first pitch was thrown in anger that Lincoln’s softball team would go undefeated in 2012?

Right. Don’t ask.

But that’s what’s on the verge of happening.

Lincoln upped its record to 21-0 by blanking Toll Gate, 5-0, in the Division I winners’ bracket final.

Lindsay Mayer, who’s been a standout all season for the Lions, allowed six hits and fanned 15 en route to winning her 18th game of the season.

Coventry, came out of the losers’ bracket to reach the championship round as the Oakers beat Toll Gate, 4-2, in the bracket final.

Kerrie Deliberis went the route on a six-hitter replete with 10 strikeouts to pace the Oakers’ triumph.

Elsewhere:
*East Greenwich and West Warwick will clash for the Division II title. The top-seeded Avengers prevailed 11-0 over Woonsocket in a game that was called after 4 1/2 innings because of the league’s mercy rule. The Wizards came out of the losers’ bracket thanks to an 8-5 victory over the Villa Novans in the losers’ bracket final.

*Davies Tech captured the first softball title in school history by outlasting Central, 18-10, in the Division III finals. The Patriots were led by Maddie Goodhart, Kassandra Therrien and Caterina Martinez.

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, 2012
5/31/12
6:17
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In 1955 the late, great comedic actor Peter Sellers made a movie titled “The Mouse That Roared.”

Rhode IslandIf the Rhode Island Interscholastic League should decide to make a high school baseball version of a sequel it should be named “The Cougars That Roared.”

With an enrollment of barely 500 male students, North Providence is near the bottom of the R.I.I.L. when it comes to sports. But the Cougars sure know how to play baseball.

Not only did coach Dean Garganese’s team capture the Division I championship with a 17-1 record, but the Cougars also earned the No. 1 seed in the 16-team, double-elimination Division I state tournament.

The Cougars got off on the right paw by mauling 16th-seeded Lincoln, 8-3, in an opening round game.

Mike Corin (three hits and two RBI), Nick DiDino (two-run single) and Tyler Proulx (two hits, one RBI) paced the attack as North Providence moved into the winners’ bracket.

North Providence annexed the top seed by blanking Moses Brown, 2-0, in its regular-season finale as Corin blanked the Quakers for six innings and Dillon McCluskie pitched a perfect seventh for the save.

In other first-round games:
* No. 2 Hendricken (the Hawks beat the Cougars two years ago in the finals) beat No. 15 East Greenwich, 7-2, as Bill Walker belted a solo homer and Tom Pannone (who’s signed a letter of intent to play his college ball at the University of Miami) allowed two runs on five hits over six innings.

* No. 14 Chariho upset No. 3 North Kingstown, 5-3, as Jacob Marchessault went the distance on a five-hitter. With the scored tied at 3 in the top of the seventh, Jim Paquette drilled a two-run single for the Chargers.

* No. 4 South Kingstown edged No. 13 Warwick Vets, 3-2, as Nick Hayes plated all of the Rebels’ runs with two hits.

* No. 5 La Salle blanked No. 12 Pilgrim, 3-0, with Caleb Gardner and Tyler Drainville combining for 12 strikeouts. The Rams scored their runs in the third on RBI doubles by Jesse Lee, Frank DiMato and Pat Burns.

* No. 11 Coventry knocked off No. 6 Cranston East, 5-1 as Matt Laferriere went the distance on a six hitter and fanned eight in the process.

* No. 7 Portsmouth routed No. 10 Cranston West, 10-0, with Matt Peters homering to key a 13-hit attack.

* No. 8 Cumberland had to work “overtime” to dispatch No. 9 Middletown, 1-0, in 12 innings. Ryan Harris led the last of the 12th with a single, advanced to third on a wild pickoff throw and scored the only run on a wild pitch.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
10:07
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At face value, the La Salle Academy boys’ lacrosse team should have been devastated last spring by graduation when six All-State players – including All-Americans Ryan Poirier (midfield) and Cody O’Donnell (defender) - departed via the cap-and-gown route.

Not quite.

Rhode IslandThrough games of May 15, the Rams were sitting atop Division I with an 8-0 record and were leading in both goals scored (107) plus goals allowed (48).

Most importantly, the Rams have established themselves as the team to beat in their pursuit of the first state championship since the school added the sport.

Over the previous four seasons, coach Steve O’Donnell’s team posted a combined record of 44-3. But the Rams have lost three times in the finals – in 2008 to North Kingstown, in 2010 to Moses Brown and in 2011 to Hendricken.

But the returning veterans have keyed La Salle’s run to a possible undefeated season.

For example, All-American attack Brady O’Donnell scored five goals in this week’s 12-9 victory over North Kingstown. And in a 7-5 non-league victory over Bishop Guertin, a Division I school from Nashua, N.H., O’Donnell collected a hat trick.

Second Team All-State midfielder Jack Collins fired home seven goals and assisted on another in a 12-8 win over Hendricken.

Senior midfielder Dan Lucchetti scored three goals and assisted on one when La Salle beat the Hawks, 11-7, in the teams’ rematch.

Senior midfielder Sam Ricci added one goal plus four assists in the second win over the Hawks.

Sophomore Peter DeSimone has played well at attack and recorded four goals plus an assist in that 11-7 win over Hendricken.

TOLMAN CLINCHES PENNANT
With three games left in the regular season, Tolman clinched the Division II-Central title on May 15 by blanking Mount Pleasant, 3-0, as Andrew Larson and Carlos Sanabria combined on a six-hitter.

That was the latest in a string of impressive victories for the Tigers (13-3 in league play and 14-3 overall).

Against arch-rival Shea, Sanabria tossed a two-hitter replete with one walk and 12 strikeouts as the Tigers prevailed, 10-0. Sanabria also went 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI.

Earlier, Tolman received another solid mound performance from Larson who went the distance on a five-hitter as the Tigers edged Classical, 2-1.

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