Boston High School: St. Raphael Academy

R.I. football playoff matchups coming into focus

November, 21, 2013
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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
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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.

Hendricken again setting pace in R.I.

October, 9, 2013
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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

February, 16, 2013
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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
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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
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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

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
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Maybe Mount St. Charles will win a record 43rd state boys’ hockey championship. After all, the Mount returns 13 players from last season’s team that posted a 21-8-0 overall record and lost in a pulsating, best-of-three finals to Bishop Hendricken.

Rhode IslandBut the Mounties were unable to win their own Holiday Face-Off Tournament.

In fact, the Mount didn’t even reach the finals of this season’s tournament because it was eliminated in the semifinals, 6-5, by Delbarton School of Morristown, N.J.

The Green Wave swamped the Mount by scoring four first period goals, including a hat trick by John Balocco, which trumped a two-goal, two-assist performance by Dan Glod.

But in the finals, Fairfield Prep (Conn.) edged Delbarton, 4-3, on Matt Wikman’s goal at 5:50 of a second overtime period.

LaSalle College finished third by blanking La Salle Academy, 5-0, with Ryan Williams also recording a hat trick.

The only Rhode Island team to finish in the top five was Hendricken, as the Hawks beat Bishop Guertin (N.H.), 3-1, with Matt Creamer (the son of head coach Jim Creamer) scoring one goal and assisting on another.

TIGERS CRAWL INTO THE NIGHT
While Mount St. Charles made news (albeit of a negative type) on the ice, Tolman also made news that essentially was disturbing.

Tolman, which has won six Division III state championships, will be dropping boys’ hockey after this season because, quite simply, it’s going to lack enough players.

The current team dresses only 13 players – eight of whom are seniors. And for the second season in a row, there are zero freshmen on the team which also is minus any sophomores.

Nevertheless, the Tigers are 6-1-1 in their first eight games.

Ironically, Tolman’s cross-town rival in Pawtucket, Shea, dropped hockey in 1987 – after winning its only then-Met C title – because of a lack of players.

DRIBBLING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS
Like most states, Rhode Island featured numerous holiday basketball tournaments.

Following are the results of the more prominent ones:
  • Ben Bradley poured in 27 points as Cumberland beat Woonsocket, 68-58, in the finals of the long-standing Cumberland/Lincoln Boys & Girls Club Holiday Tournament. Bradley, who was voted MVP honors, scored 13 points and dished out eight assists as the Clippers beat Tolman, 62-46, in the semifinals. The Villa Novans advanced to the finals by beating Lincoln, 53-46, with Nicholas Jusczszyn scoring 20 points.
  • Kody Greenhalgh clinched MVP honors after scoring a game-high 23 points to lead West Warwick to a 67-57 victory over Scituate in the finals of the West Warwick Holiday Tournament.
  • Justin Pratt keyed a rally that saw North Kingstown overcome a double-digit deficit and defeat Shea, 74-63, in the Barrington Boosters Holiday Tournament championship game. Pratt scored 26 points – 18 coming on six 3-point shots.
  • Mackenzie Ramsay and Sarah LaMountain scored five points apiece in overtime and West Warwick converted five free throws in the final moments of regulation as the Wizards beat Coventry, 68-60, in the Coventry Credit Union Classic title game. Coventry’s Sarah McGrath forced the extra session when she drained a 3-point shot with seven seconds left in regulation.
  • Juanita Sanchez boasted the MVP in Elfreda Hoff as it captured the City of Providence Holiday Tournament by outlasting Classical, 37-25, in the finals. Hoff scored 31 of her team’s points against the Purple after notching 25 in a 53-19 romp over Hope in the semifinals.
  • Just before the holidays, Prout’s Eric Ramelka surpassed the 1000-point mark for his career as the Crusaders beat Lincoln, 61-46.
EAGLES, PURPLE REIGN
Division I champion Barrington and Division II champ Classical combined to place a total of five players on the First Team All-State Soccer Team.

Eagles earning First Team honors were keeper Andrew Jones (who also was named an All-American); midfielder Christian Egglin; and fullback Carson Hall.

Classical was represented by midfielder Asa Sohn (he played on three consecutive state championship teams, two in Division III and in Division II last season) and forward Julio Jimenez (he led all Interscholastic League players with 27 goals and 11 assists for a total of 38 points).

Rounding out the first team were midfielder Dan Apajee and fullback Greg Forgue from La Salle; forward Christian Rodriguez (21 goals) and midfielder Stiven Montiero from Central Falls; midfielder Brandon Jumoas and keeper Justus Heinstchel Von Heinegg from Portsmouth.

SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE
La Salle Academy’s All-Everything running back Josh Morris has announced he’ll be attending Brown University next fall.

Morris, who led the Rams to the Division I regular-season title, rushed for 2,725 yards and 36 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons.

Hendricken’s Mike King will play his baseball at Boston College, after earning Second Team All-State honors last spring for Division I state champ Hendricken.

Alex Perreault, a First Team All-State selection last spring in lacrosse for Hendricken, opted for perennial power Johns Hopkins.

St. Raphael Academy’s Nicholas Karalekas, who received the Carl Yastrzemski Scholarship (a four-year scholarship endowed by the Red Sox Hall of Famer), will enroll at Merrimack College and play baseball.

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.

Recap: No. 13 Catholic Memorial 87, St. Raphael (R.I.) 46

December, 23, 2012
12/23/12
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HOLYOKE, Mass. -- Catholic Memorial used a series of runs throughout Sunday’s game to take control against St. Raphael (R.I.) and put it out of reach, en route to an 87-46 victory in Day 4 at the BasketBull Hoops Fest at Holyoke Community College.

The most important run of the game happened at the start of the second half with the No. 13 CM(4-0) leading 42-25. The Knights forced three St. Raphael (4-1) turnovers, including back-to-back steals and finishes by senior guard Pat Hurley, to spark an 11-0 run, taking a commanding 56-25 lead.

“St. Raphael is a good team and I know they were capable of making three’s in bunches,” CM head coach Denis Tobin said. “We stressed at the half that we wanted to extend it and put them away, so if they did hit a couple of three’s we would have enough of a cushion.”

Tobin was right about the Saints, they could get hot from behind the arc and they did. Following the run, St. Raphael connected on three consecutive 3-pointers – from Graham Lynch, John Conney, and Charles Correa – to cut the lead to 56-34. The Saints shot 9 of 24 from deep on Sunday.

“At that point, by the 11-0 start, we were OK,” Tobin said.

That was the only run the Saints would get on the day. The Knights controlled the glass, outrebounding the Saints 25-16, while forcing 16 turnovers in the game.

“The energy off the bench really helped us,” sophomore guard Gullien Smith said. “Our defense really picked up, we closed out on the shooter really well.”

Catholic Memorial started the game with a 7-0 run led by the senior backcourt of Hurley and D.J. McClure. Against the zone defense to start the game Hurley found McClure for a 3-pointer from the wing to start the game. Hurley would make a pair of free throws and a layup, before hitting McClure on a fast break lay-in, forcing St. Raphael (4-1) to call a timeout.

The Knights built a double-digit lead with a 6-0 run late in the first quarter to take a 10-point advantage into the second quarter. With the Saints threatening to cut the lead to single-digits heading into halftime, the Knights put together another 7-0 run to close out the half leading by 17.

“It’s a big court up here,” Tobin said. “The whole plan was to run bodies at them. Pressure them both defensively and then make them run back in transition and hopefully wear them down.”

Smith led CM with 16 points, four assists and three rebounds. Hurley was solid all-around with 12 points, four assists, four steals, and two rebounds, while Gerard Adams chipped in 12 points as well, to go along with nine rebounds.

St. Raphael was led by an injured Correa, who had 13 points, five assists, and three steals. Conney led the Saints in scoring with 16 points, including four 3-pointers.

“We caught a break with Charles [Correa] playing with one hand; his weak hand,” Tobin said. “But we’ll take it. I think it’s the best we’ve played this season.”

GUTSY PERFORMANCE
Correa, one of the top players in Rhode Island, was held to just 13 points. It seems like a good defensive performance on paper, keeping a dynamic scorer like that in check. However, Correa was playing with an injured right hand – his shooting hand – forcing him to play the entire game with basically one hand.

“I still have a good left hand,” Correa said. “I couldn’t let my team down. If we were going to lose, we were going to lose together.”

After the game Correa said he had never shot left-handed before. He mentioned a game back in 2005 when then Indiana Pacer Jermaine O’Neal hurt his elbow on a foul from Denver Nuggets center Francisco Elson. O’Neal went to the line and was forced to shoot his free throws left handed.

“He’s just an unbelievable athlete. He hurt it the other night in the game,” St. Raphael head coach Thomas Sorrentine said. “He could really only go left, so we set him up to go left. He gave us everything he had out there. Obviously he wasn’t 100 percent.”

Correa was still able to be effective. He was second on the team in scoring with 13 points, he had five assists and came away with three steals in 26 minutes of action. With just his left hand he was still tough to guard, finding his way into the lane.

In the second quarter he knocked down back-to-back left-handed 3-pointers – he had three on the day – to go along with two other lefty layups in the second half.

“That’s very courageous of him. A non-league day, out of state, it’s very impressive,” Tobin added. “Left-handed, he’s still very, very good.”

Correa injured his right hand two days earlier in a win against Mount Pleasant. The right hand was completely wrapped and as he iced it after the game, the area around his pinky was still swollen. Sorrentine said they will have the an X-ray of Correa’s hand soon.

“I couldn’t handle the ball with my right hand,” said Correa. “I had to keep going back to my left.”

CATHOLIC MEMORIAL'S BALANCED ATTACK
This year is different for Tobin. He doesn’t have a consistent scorer every night, but he does have multiple players he can rely on game in and game out.

“We’re not like past teams, where we’ve had big go-to guys,” he said. “On any given night we have four or five guys capable of scoring 12-15 points.

“I’m very impressed with our unselfishness as well. Everybody’s willing to share the ball. We’ve all bought into the team concept.”

In Sunday’s win, six players scored eight or more points, 10 players came away with at least one rebound and seven players recorded two or more assists. The team was also solid defensive team in both the full court pressure and well as in the half court set.

The five starters –Hurley, McClure, Smith, Adams, and John McDonough – all contributed in different areas, while Kevin Claflin and Rich Lopez provided a lift off the bench.

“No one is selfish on this team,” Smith said. “No one is trying to go out and score 20, we just want to win.”

The undefeated Knights have a few days off before heading to Newton as part of a Christmas tournament with Newton North, Newton South, and Lexington.

“We’ve been there for four or five years and we haven’t won it yet,” Tobin said. “We’d like to take care of that.”

“We have another non-leaguer with Woburn on Jan. 2 and then the rest of the month of January is the league and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

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

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.

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.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

January, 12, 2012
1/12/12
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Those of a certain age remember the slogan for Timex watches: “They take a licking and keep on ticking.”

Rhode IslandThe same could be said of the St. Raphael Academy boys’ basketball team.

Defending CIAC Class L champion New London smacked the Saints upside the head last Saturday en route to a 66-55 victory at the CCRI Knight Campus Fieldhouse.

With the memory of that loss still fresh in their minds, the Saints took the floor Tuesday night for a key, early-season game against Central.

The Saints edged the Knights, 57-54, and remained atop the Interscholastic League’s new Power Points Standings with a 6-0 record (SRA is 9-1 overall).

Leading the way was SRA’s 1-2 punch of Charles Correa and Cesar Mejia.

Correa, who struggled to score 15 points against New London, led both teams with 19 points while Mejia chipped in with 18 (before the game, Mejia was honored for having scored his 1000th career point earlier in the season).

Granted, the game was marked by a series of turnovers. But when clutch time rolled around, SRA held Central (5-1, 5-2) to four free throws in the final minute.

Conversely, while the Saints were soaring, perennial state power Hendricken High’s Hawks were floundering. At the moment, the Hawks are 1-4 and rank 33rd in the Power Points standings.

Given the new rules changes imposed for this season, one of which requires a team to win at least 40 percent of its league games to qualify for post-season play, the Hawks could be in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in decades.

The top 32 teams qualify.

Hendricken absorbed a brutal 55-53 loss at the hands of arch-rival La Salle on Jan. 3, which did zero to bolster the team’s confidence.

Among other things, a lack of offense has been the proverbial Achilles’ heel for the Hawks who’ve been minus their top returning player, Lee Messier, who’s been sidelined with a sprained ankle.

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