Boston High School: Tolman

Woonsocket (R.I.) football refocuses after upset

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
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Call it a blip on the proverbial radar screen. Call it an aberration. Call it a fluke.

Rhode IslandCall it any of the above.

But after defeating four Division II-A opponents (five overall including a non-league victory) first-place Woonsocket found out -- much to the Villa Novans’ distaste -- what it’s like to exit a field with their first number under the loss column.

Rogers, who plays in II-B, upset the previously undefeated Villa Novans, 21-14, on Oct. 19 in a non-league game.

For want of a better phrase call it a wakeup call because in their four victories over division opponents, the Villa Novans had outscored them by a combined margin of 73-7.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” said Woonsocket coach/alumnus Carnell Henderson. “It’s a humbling loss because you want to win every game. But if there ever was a day to have a bad game this was it.”

The reason being non-league games don’t count in the standings and have zero effect on teams’ playoff chances. Henderson was, oh, upset at what transpired on each side of the ball.

Rogers turned the ball three times inside the Vikings 15-yard line including twice in the fourth quarter. But Woonsocket only capitalized on one of those golden opportunities.

At the risk of using a baseball metaphor, batting .333 is great in that sport but a percentage of that nature is mediocre (or worse) in football.

On the flip side, Rogers passed for two touchdowns – the first touchdown passes the Villa Novans have allowed all season.

“Our defense had been playing extremely well,” said Henderson. “I felt we had a group of young guys who could play aggressive on defense.”

In retrospect, maybe the Villa Novans were too aggressive on defense and it cost them. That performance was in stark contrast to the one they delivered in a 12-7 victory over Westerly when they only allowed three pass completions.

“We got off to a good start but we knew there still was plenty of work to do,” said Henderson. “It seemed that everyone played their worst game at the same time (against Rogers).

“It was humbling but now we go back to the drawing board try to get ready for a return to league play.”

Being humbled notwithstanding, the Villa Novans already hold the first tiebreaker should that come into play at the end of the season (record in head-to-head competition).

Johnston and Warwick Veterans are tied for second at 3-1. But the Villa Novans have beaten the Panthers 14-0 and the Hurricanes 27-0.

In fact, the three league opponents left on Woonsocket’s schedule have a combined record of 4-8.

(Read full post)

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
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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.

Sports brings comfort to Newtown (Conn.), beyond

April, 21, 2013
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Never underestimate the healing power of sports.

That was never more evident than on Saturday when Newtown (Conn.) High played Tolman (R.I.) High in a non-league baseball game at McCoy Stadium -- home of the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate .

“It can help get you back to doing some sort of routine … to doing something you love around people you really care about,” Newtown head coach Matt Memoli said after Tolman beat his Nighthawks, 5-3. “My wife and I moved there [in June, 2011]. I taught all of these kids because I teach in the middle school and I coach them now in high school.

“After everything that happened, I’ve always had a great sense of pride for the town. But it’s overwhelming the way people have responded. It does bring people together."

When Memoli mentioned “everything that happened” he was referring to the horrendous events of Dec. 14 and the tragic deaths that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The idea to play Newtown was the idea of Tolman coach Theo Murray. But the purpose wasn’t just to play a baseball game. It also served as a fund raiser with all proceeds being donated to the Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Program which provides financial help for emergency responders, medical and mental health professionals and Sandy Hook Elementary School employees who suffered a mental or emotional impairment because of the crisis that occurred last December.

A crowd of nearly 1,000 viewed the game, which raised a grand total of $8,500. And that figure doesn’t include the $600 Murray raised from various sponsors plus the $500 donation by Tolman’s athletic department.

In addition, Dattco, the bus company utilized by the Pawtucket Red Sox, donated its services to transport the Nighthawks from Newtown to Pawtucket and back home.

On top of all this, the four umpires donated their time and the PawSox hosted a post-game barbeque for both teams.

“Dattco donated their services in honor of the Newtown kids,” PawSox President Mike Tamburro said. “[Tolman athletic director] John Scanlon and Theo called us late January and asked us if we would host this event. It took us about a second to say ‘Yes.’ It’s just made darn, good sense.

“If we could bring a smile to the face of that community in this small way, we thought the idea needed to be embraced. Watching those kids get off the bus and walk onto this field at 9:30 this morning, they were like walking on a cloud. It made it all worthwhile.”

Tolman (4-2) led 5-1 entering the top of the seventh when Newtown (3-4) rallied for two runs and eventually left the bases loaded when the final out was recorded.

The Nighthawks’ ability to rally, in the opinion of senior Mike Koch, reflected the strength of the community as well as that of the team.

“Going on strength of community, the way we came back in the last inning basically shows how our community is especially after what happened,” Koch said. “We all came back together. We all fought back and we’re trying to make the best of what we have.

“That’s the way it’s been in Newtown. We’re extremely close as friends. When we come back like that, with the reserves coming in and doing work like they did, it was a great job all around. And it’s the same in the community.”

Not your average ballpark: What wasn’t the same was playing in a venue like McCoy Stadium which has seen a myriad of players that went on to become All-Stars as well as Hall of Famers (i.e. Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, etc.).

“It’s always a great experience to play on a field that doesn’t give you bad hops for once,” Koch said. “It’s also a great experience to play where David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have played … all those great players.

“It’s an honor to play here.”

The fact Newtown was invited to play the game took Memoli completely by surprise.

“When Coach Murray invited us to come here, I don’t know him from Adam,” Memoli said. “He e-mailed me after the events that occurred at Sandy Hook. I went to my athletic director and my players and the first thing everyone said was ‘Definitely.’

“It’s a huge testament to him, just being unselfish to invite our team when we don’t have any idea of who they are … to come out to a stadium like this. It says a lot about who [Murray] is and what that program is to allow us to enjoy that experience.”

It also was in stark contrast to what the players experienced on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook.

“It was scary,” Memoli said. “For these kids, personally, it was extremely scary. Overall, it was just very sad for all of us. For these kids, I tell them sometimes I don’t like yelling at them because I care about them so much. It’s such a fun group to be around.

“Ever since December and the events that happened this week, to get out here for a little normalcy and just to play baseball on a field like these in a stadium like this, it really makes you thankful and grateful that you get a chance to do this. These kids are definitely grateful and thankful they got to come out here and have fun and play baseball.”

Play ball: As for the game, which essentially was secondary in nature, Newtown grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on Dean Demers’ sacrifice fly.

Tolman then hung four runs on the board in the last of the second, one on a wild pitch, another on a Steve Otis single and two on Jason Maynard’s double.

The Tigers tacked on an insurance run in the third when Carlos Canabria drew a leadoff walk and eventually came home when Nick Kempf was hit by a bases-loaded pitch.

Newtown’s seventh-inning rally was sparked by Pat Rowley’s double and Garrison Buzzanca’s single.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
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The Rhode Island Interscholastic League has held boys’ hockey state tournaments since 1933. From that year until the present, one school has dominated regardless of division alignments.

Rhode IslandThis season, the RIIL implemented a Super Four championship which involved the top four teams in the state based on a power-point system. New format or not, the final result was the same: Mount St. Charles emerged with its fifth state championship in the last six years; its 31st in the last 36 years; and its seemingly-incredible 43rd in RIIL history.

What made Mount’s conquest this season even more impressive was the fact that, in its best-of-three series with La Salle, the two games coach Bill Belisle’s team needed to annex another title weren’t even close.

Mount blew out the Rams, 7-0, in Game 1 and closed the deal with a 5-2 victory in Game 2.

The Mounties led 2-0 after one period in Game 1 only because of stellar goaltending by Tyler Walsh, who stopped 18 of 20 shots.

Walsh made 22 more saves in a scoreless second period. But in the third the Mount erupted for five goals – the first a power-play score by Dan Glod (his second of the game).

After that, it was all downhill for Mount as Brian Belisle (the coach’s grandson), scored to make it 4-0.

In the end, Mount outshot La Salle by a whopping 67-24 margin.

Mount only led 1-0 after the first period of Game 2 on a goal by Patrick Holmes. But Devin Votta’s second-period goal made it 2-0 and Glod scored twice in the third period which ended any suspense.

Glod, a senior forward, was voted the Super Four MVP after scoring three goals in two games.

EAGLES DEFY ODDS
Barrington finished a lackluster Division I regular-season record of 3-14-1.

But just like Superman stepping into a telephone booth and emerging as the antithesis to Clark Kent, the Eagles took flight and captured the Division I Tournament by beating Burrillville, two games to one, in the best-of-three series.

Truth be told, eight of Barrington’s regular-season losses were at the hands of the Super Four Tournament teams. But in tournament play, the Eagles were 4-1 and captured the school’s first boys’ hockey title in 18 years (Barrington won the Division II title in 1995).

Barrington set off a wild celebration after blanking the Broncos, 2-0 in Game 3, due in large part to tournament MVP Andrew Galbraith.

A senior goaltender, Galbraith stopped a hefty 52 shots after stopping 28 in a 1-0 victory in Game 1.

Barrington scored the only goal Galbraith would need barely four minutes into the first period on a shot by Brett Fay.

Mike Lombardi’s power-play goal early in the second period provided an insurance goal. Lombardi, a freshman, scored the only goal in Game 1 as the Eagles prevailed, 1-0. But the Broncos kicked up their heels in Game 12 and clipped the Eagles, 7-2, behind a hat trick by Chad Stone.

LIONS PERFECT
With the exception of a tie, Lincoln completed a spectacular 23-0-1 season by sweeping the best-of-three Division II championship series against Prout by scores of 3-2 in each game – the second in overtime.

The title was the first for the Lions since the 1984-85 season.

With Game 2 tied 2-2 in OT, Griffin Hevey’s shot from the blue line at 3:36 eluded Crusader goalie Austin Gemma. In Gemma’s defense, Lincoln caught Prout during a line change.

Previously, Hevey scored an overtime goal against East Greenwich which clinched the quarterfinal series.

Lincoln sophomore goalie, Chris Leclaire, stopped 34 shots to earn the victory while Lincoln’s other goals were scored by Ryan Krohto and Jerzy Polak – the latter during a power play.

Leclaire was solid in Game 1 as he turned aside 30 shots and kept Lincoln’s deficit at 1-0 until late in the second period when Krohto scored twice in a span of 3:20.

KNIGHTS SPEAR TIGERS
Three years ago, West Warwick was dropping hockey due to a lack of participation.

So, West Warwick and Exeter/West Greenwich formed a co-op team and in March it did something that was totally unimaginable: win a state title.

West Warwick/EWG swept Tolman by scores of 5-2 and 5-1 to annex the Division III title and erase the sting of a 5-11-0 record the team posted last season.

In addition, it enabled coach Pete Ethier’s team to finish with a 20-0-0 record.

The Wizards/Scarlet Knights scored a hefty 142 goals during 16 regular-season games. And it was more of the same against Tolman, which will be dropping hockey (does this sound familiar?) due to a lack of boys willing and able to play hockey.

Troy Sankey scored the Wizards/Scarlet Knights’ first two goals and Anthony Ventura buried a rebound early in the third period for what proved to be the game-winner.

The victors also boasted the tournament’s MVP in Antonio Rei, who scored the game’s final goal.

Sankey came up big in Game 1 when he scored a power-play goal in the first period to tie the score at 1-1. Ventrua followed suit, and after Tolman’s Chris Baldwin tied it, Rei scored the eventual game-winner at 7:47 of the third.

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
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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.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
4:01
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Buried amidst the rubble in Central Falls, which long ago filed for bankruptcy and has been under the direction of a state-appointed receiver, has been the fate of the coaches of the city’s lone high school.

Rhode IslandTo be precise, they’ve given new meaning to the words “volunteer coaches.”

Because of a budget freeze and ongoing contract negotiations between the city and the union representing teachers, Warriors coaches have been guiding their teams sans compensation.

That was true in the fall; it’s carried over to the winter sports season; and barring any change in developments the status will remain quo come the spring.

Ironically, Warrior teams have enjoyed an inordinate amount of success.

Coach Mo Jackson led CF to the Division IV Super Bowl in December.

Coach Rich Sousa took his girls’ volleyball team to the Division II semifinals.

Coach Carl Africo guided the boys’ soccer team to the Division I quarterfinals.

The other falls sports for which coaches weren’t paid are boys’ and girls’ cross country, girls’ soccer and unified volleyball.

CF’s winter sports include boys’ and girls’ basketball, wrestling, boys’ and girls’ track and unified basketball.

The spring sports slate includes only baseball and softball.

The 63-year-old Jackson, who’s the dean of Warrior coaches, didn’t learn about the lack of funding until midway through the football season.

“I was a little upset,” Jackson was quoted in The Times of Pawtucket. “But I wasn’t going to abandon the kids halfway through the season.

“I don’t know if I had known before the season started if I would have coached. After being here 20 years, I’d like the opportunity to make that decision. But you don’t get into (coaching high school sports) to make a lot of money.”

North Kingstown, to a certain extent, is in a similar position as Central Falls – although the South County town is far from bankruptcy.

However, it has a projected $1.6 million deficit for fiscal year 2013.

As a result, Superintendent Phil Auger is working on proposals that could include cuts that would impact Skipper high school teams.

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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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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
12:55
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And you wonder why coaches become prematurely gray and develop ulcers?

Rhode IslandJust ask Hendricken coach Keith Croft and Chariho coach Mike Kelly.

Each coach reached for something to soothe their stomachs after his team won its respective Super Bowl.

Hendricken retained its Division I title by upsetting previously-undefeated La Salle, 17-14, while Chariho won the Division II title – the first state football championship in school history – by edging Central, 26-25.

How each team won was the stuff of legend.

La Salle led 14-10 with 55 seconds left in regulation when Laionel Cintron caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Brannigan which helped avenge a 39-14 pasting the Hawks suffered at the hands of the Rams in September.

The championship was the eighth in school history for the Hawks. And, ironically, the reception only was Cintron’s 13th of the season for the run-oriented Hawks.

Chariho trailed 25-20 with four minutes left on the clock thanks to a second touchdown run by Central’s Mike Washington. But on the ensuing kickoff, Colton place caught the ball on his two and sprinted 98 yards for arguably the biggest touchdown in Chariho history – one that produced the 26-25 victory.

The other two Super Bowls had less dramatic finishes but were just as important to the respective victors.

Rogers, which at one time dominated Division I, beat Middletown 27-7 for the Division III title while Mount Pleasant captured its second consecutive Division IV Super Bowl title by outlasting Central Falls, 22-13.

Senior Reeyon Watts helped the Vikings avenge a loss in the 2010 Super Bowl to the Islanders by rushing for 170 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries.

The title was the first as a coach for Rogers’ alumnus Frank Newsome who played on three Division I Super Bowl teams from 1988-90.

Emmanuel Marsh caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Dunlap and scored on a four-yard run to pace the Kilties.

In addition, Marsh played a solid game at safety – a position he had not played before the Super Bowl because coach Paul Rao felt he would best fit in a Cover-3 defense.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
6:02
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Is there any sports fan who hasn’t heard that cliché’ “picking up the slack?”

Rhode IslandThat’s exactly what Division I leader La Salle Academy did on October 28 when the Rams overcame the loss of quarterback Anthony Francis, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, and still throttled playoff contender Cranston West, 30-6.

Junior running back Josh Morris certainly picked up the slack in his teammate’s absence by scoring on touchdown runs of 22 and 51 yards in the first half as the Rams remained on top with a 6-0 record.

La Salle also received a lift from backup quarterback Jack Collins who came off the bench and scored on runs of two yards and one yard.

As a result, La Salle has outscored its six division opponents by a hefty margin of 234-86 and is in position to run the table which would enable coach Geoff Marcone’s team to clinch the division title and the top seed in the upcoming playoffs.

But as is frequently the case, the title and the No. 1 seed won’t be decided until Thanksgiving Day when the Rams play arch-rival East Providence (4-1) in the state’s longest-running series on that holiday.

The Townies ventured to Massachusetts last weekend and were blanked, 26-0, by Foxborough in a non-league game – due in large part to the fact they committed seven turnovers. But the previous weekend, East Providence moved into title contention by beating third-place Hendricken (4-2), 35-14, as quarterback Brandon Peters threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Victor Adewoski and ran for a pair of touchdowns.

Should East Providence and La Salle enter their Thanksgiving game still ranked 1-2 in the standings and if the Townies win which would force a tie, they would earn the No. 1 seed based on the first tiebreaker (record in head-to-head competition).

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
2:43
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Here’s the scary part about La Salle Academy’s 39-14 romp over defending Division I Super Bowl champion Hendricken: each of the six Rams who scored touchdowns are juniors -- repeat juniors and not seniors.

Rhode IslandWhile it wouldn’t be fair to say that running back Josh Morris stood head and shoulders above his classmates, it also wouldn’t be far-fetched.

Morris scored three touchdowns, two on runs of 21 and 38 yards, and the other on a 78-yard kickoff return to start the second half.

As for La Salle’s other juniors who figured prominently in this game, quarterback Anthony Francis (who missed half of last season with an injury) threw touchdown passes of 21 and 46 yards to Tyneil Cooper while Francis also plunged 1 yard for a score.

While this game was the league opener for each team, the victory improved the Rams’ overall record to 3-0 – during which they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 106 to 21.

Another reason why the game was noteworthy is that either the Hawks or Rams have played in every Division I Super Bowl for the last 17 seasons yet they’ve never played each other in the big game.

Finally, the result may have been a premonition of things to come because La Salle has qualified for the Division I playoffs for 11 consecutive years.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
2:00
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At the risk of pilfering a line from Charles Dickens’ immortal novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” the 2010 football season was the best of times and the worst of times for Hendricken High coach Keith Croft.

Rhode IslandCroft, who was voted the Schoolboy Sports Coach of the Year by Words Unlimited (the state-wide organization of sports writers, sportscasters and sports publicists), guided the Hawks to their first Division I Super Bowl championship in 15 years – and went undefeated (13-0) in the process (Hendricken edged Portsmouth, 20-17, for the title).

The worst of times occurred on November 6, when his son, Caden (who was born on July 4), underwent surgery to have a shunt implanted in the back of his head – because the infant was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a condition where the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord doesn’t drain properly and creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain.

Fortunately for Croft and his wife Kerri, the operation was successful and young Caden may be on the sideline (okay, in the stands) as his dad tries to coach Hendricken to another Super Bowl crown.

If the Hawks do repeat, it will be due in large part to two facts:
  • They return a pair of First Team All-State selections in senior wide receiver / defensive back Ryan Brannigan and senior offensive tackle Max Heintzleman.
  • They also will suit up 21 seniors, many of whom saw significant playing time last season.

Brannigan invariably figured prominently in all-purpose yardage since he caught 14 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns and also carried the ball 64 times for 327 yards and one score.

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