Weekends donâ€™t get any bigger than this one when it comes to the race for the Division II-B title and the other three playoffs spots up for grabs.
On Friday night, Tolman carries its 3-0 record into Pariseau Field for a 7 p.m. contest against Mount Hope (2-1), while on Saturday afternoon, the divisionâ€™s other 3-0 team, West Warwick, hosts St. Raphael (2-1) in a 1:30 p.m. affair.
After three weekends of action, these four teams appear to be the class of the division and on their way to playing in next monthâ€™s Division II quarterfinals. The only questions are where they will end up in the final standings and if an under-the-radar team like Ponaganset can crash that group.
And while this weekend is an important one, folks may want to keep in mind the weekend of Oct. 28-29 because Pariseau Field will be the site of two big games between these teams. Tolman will host West Warwick on Friday night, and SRA and Mount Hope will lock horns on Saturday afternoon.
Back to Ponaganset. The Chieftains are 1-2 with back-to-back losses to West Warwick and Mount Hope. They will face a winless, but hungry Woonsocket team on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Barry Field. A victory keeps their playoff hopes alive, but a loss puts a sharp dagger in their aspirations.
And speaking of teams desperately needing victories this weekend, there are quite a few, such as Cumberland, which travels to Warwick Vets on Friday for a 7 p.m. battle of 1-2 teams who are tied for fifth place in Division II-A.
The Clippers, like the Chieftains, have suffered consecutive defeats to teams ahead of them in the standings, Chariho (1-1) and Westerly (3-0). With high-flying Central (3-0) and Johnston (2-1) awaiting them in the upcoming weeks, a loss to the Hurricanes will certainly put them behind the eight ball.
In Division III, the Lions are 1-2 and hosting Tiverton on Friday at 7 p.m. at Ferguson Field. The Tigers, who are 2-1 and one of five teams in the division with just one loss, are fielding one of their most experienced squads in recent memory, and they and Rogers (3-0) are considered two of the teams to beat.
These next few weeks will be crucial for the Lions, who after this game, will take on two more one-loss teams in Moses Brown and Narragansett. If they can at least claim two of these three games, they will certainly be in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Another contest that should get plenty of interest is the Division IV matchup between North Smithfield and Exeter/West Greenwich on Friday at 7 p.m. on the Northmenâ€™s turf complex.
Both teams dueled each other in last yearâ€™s playoffs and rolled into the season as two of the teams to beat. But while the Scarlet Knights have rolled out to a 3-0 start, the Northmen have stumbled and dropped their two league games.
Itâ€™s a crucial game for the Northmen, but which team will show up for it? Will it be the one that was firing on all cylinders and blasted Burrillville, 55-26, in their non-league opener, or will it be the one that was upset by Smithfield last weekend and lost by three touchdowns?
There are four other games on this weekendâ€™s schedule. East Providence will head to Cranston Stadium tomorrow for a 7 p.m. game against Division I foe Cranston East, Shea hosts Central in a Division II-A affair tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Max Read Field, and in Division IV, Central Falls entertains Scituate at 6 p.m. at Macomber Stadium.
On Saturday, Burrillville gets a jump on the dayâ€™s action by taking on Moses Brown in a 10:30 a.m. Division III game at the Broncosâ€™ Alumni Field.
Hereâ€™s a brief look at the weekendâ€™s nine games:
Mount Hope at Tolman
The Tigersâ€™ defense, which has allowed just 26 points in its three games, eyes a tough test in the Huskies, who average 31 points per game and boast one of the leagueâ€™s premier tailbacks in Aaron Booth and a fullback (Gian DiMezza) that torched Toll Gate for 273 yards and three touchdowns last week.
The Huskiesâ€™ division defeat came at the hands of the Wizards, 22-20, in their league opener, and before that contest, they battled Division I foe Portsmouth to the final seconds before dropping a 21-18 decision.
While the Huskies are expected to be at full strength for this game, the Tigers are hoping senior running back Elvis George, who missed last Fridayâ€™s 55-6 rout of Pilgrim with a knee injury, will be back in action. If not, expect Mory Keita, Darion Stubbs and Homlin Taylor to fill in nicely in the backfield.
St. Raphael at West Warwick
The Saints face a Wizards team that won a pair of nailbiters en route to its 3-0 start. Not only did they edge the Huskies, but they squeaked past Ponaganset, 14-12, last weekend.
The Wizards have one of the divisionâ€™s most experienced teams (19 returning starters), but the Saints have one of the most explosive stars in junior Charles Correa, who has scored seven touchdowns and will be looking to torment the Wizards with his speed and elusiveness.
Expect plenty of passing in this contest, with West Warwickâ€™s Ryan Oâ€™Kelly (37-of-69, 450 yards, five TDs) and SRAâ€™s Julien Diaz (20-of-35, 399 yards, four TDs) lined up behind center, but when it comes to running the ball, SRA may have the edge with Pat Miranda and Correa in its backfield.
Ponaganset at Woonsocket
A big game for the Chieftains, who canâ€™t afford to head into their next league game (an Oct. 22 battle with Tolman) with three defeats if they plan to reach the postseason, and the Villa Novans, who sorely want to avoid their first 0-4 start in five years.
While inexperience and key injuries have played major roles in Woonsocketâ€™s early struggles, the Chieftains can pin their recent defeats on their offensive woes. In last weekâ€™s defeat to the Wizards, they produced just 172 yards, and the week before that, they totaled 149.
East Providence at Cranston East
For the second time in three Fridays, the Townies (2-1) march into Cranston Stadium, but unlike their last trip, a 19-10 loss to Cranston West, E.P. should take care of business against the Thunderbolts, who are 0-2 and were blasted earlier in the season by the Division II Wizards, 33-14.
Townies running back Jalin Braxton ran for 157 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in last weekâ€™s impressive 26-22 victory over Portsmouth. That was his third game of the season in which he picked up over 150 yards, and he could be in line for another monstrous night at the â€™Bolts expense.
Cumberland at Warwick Vets
The Clippers only lost by seven points to the Chargers and Bulldogs, and with a little luck and a bounce or two their way, they could be 2-1 or 3-0.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have been outscored in their three contests by a 108-20 margin, and their win came last weekend in a close 14-8 victory over Coventry.
If the Clippers can control the clock and cut down on turnovers and penalties, thereâ€™s no reason why they shouldnâ€™t capture this game, and not just by seven points. Sophomore running back Ryan Gaumond is due for a 100-yard game on the ground.
Tiverton at Lincoln
The Lions will be dealing with a Tiverton squad thatâ€™s not only experienced, but can also play superb defense (25 points allowed in three division games) and has plenty of depth in their backfield, which is led by Jacob Kapstein and Keyvon Kronsberg.
Lincoln is coming into this game fresh off its 18-12 win over Burrillville that saw the Lions score the game-winning touchdown with 30.8 seconds left in the contest. Can the Lions carry the momentum from that thrilling victory into this very important matchup?
Scituate at Central Falls
Blowout of the weekend? Quite possibly. The Warriors (2-1) gave defending champ Mount Pleasant a run for its money last weekend in a 14-12 loss, and they have gotten the job done in the past few games behind a strong defense and the running of Josh Brandon (268 rushing yards in his last two games).
This looks like its going to be a very long season for the Spartans. They were outscored 90-6 in their division losses this year to North Providence and the Providence Country Day/Juanita Sanchez co-op team, and in their non-league opener, Ponaganset blasted them, 60-6.
Central at Shea
This contest could also be a mismatch. Knights tailback Michael Washington has scored 12 touchdowns and rushed for over 700 yards in leading his team to a 3-0 record. The Raiders have been outscored 101-34 en route to their 0-3 mark.
After this game, the Raiders will pay a visit to Tiverton for a non-leaguer, but the following weekend, they will face Coventry, which is also winless and has been outscored 70-22. Could this be Sheaâ€™s best chance to break into the win column?
Moses Brown at Burrillville
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The Broncos took a serious hit in last weekâ€™s game with the Lions when their top player, fullback Kevin Deschamps, suffered a neck injury and was rushed to the hospital. Not having him in action will make this weekâ€™s contest against the Quakers (2-1) a whole lot tougher for the Broncos (0-3).
The Quakers, like the Tigers, are exceptional defensively, and they boast one of the stateâ€™s fastest players in running back/kickoff returner Josh Gilkenson of Pawtucket.