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Three competitive non-league games on Friday night and a Division IV clash for second place on Saturday afternoon highlight what appears to be a âho-humâ high school football schedule this weekend in the Blackstone Valley.
On Friday at 7 p.m., there are a handful of non-league games around Rhode Island pitting Division I teams against Division II teams, and three of the games involve schools in our backyard, East Providence, Tolman, and St. Raphael.
The Division I Townies will host nearby Division II-B foe Mount Hope at Pierce Field in a showdown thatâs sure to attract many East Bay fans.
The Tigers and Saints, who are currently in the top four in the division standings with the Huskies, will each face one of the Cranston schools, with Tolman hosting Cranston East at Pariseau Field, and SRA paying a visit to Cranston Stadium for a duel with one of their former Division I rivals, Cranston West.
While those three games make up tomorrowâs entire schedule, Saturdayâs slate contains a half dozen games, none probably more bigger than Central Fallsâ Division IV showdown with Exeter/West Greenwich.
The Warriors, who at 3-1, are off to their best start in six years, will clash with another 3-1 team in the mighty Scarlet Knights on Saturday afternoon in a 2 p.m. battle at EWGâs athletic complex.
In another division matchup worth watching, Lincoln will carry a 1-3 record and its slim Division III playoff hopes into a 2:15 p.m. test against another postseason hopeful, Moses Brown (2-1), at the Quakersâ Campanella Field in Providence.
Burrillville (0-3) will also hit the road for a Division III contest in Providence, at the turf Morro Athletic Complex for a 1:30 p.m. game against Classical.
The other three games are non-league matchups â Division II-A Cumberland visits II-B Toll Gate at 12:30 p.m., Division II-B Ponaganset heads to East Providence to take on the Division IV Providence Country Day/Wheeler School/Juanita Sanchez co-op team at 1, and Division II-A Shea is also on the road and taking on Division III Tiverton at 7.
Woonsocket and North Smithfield have the weekend off.
Hereâs a look at the nine games of local interest:
Cranston East at Tolman
Since 2006, the Tigers own an 0-10 record in non-league games against Division I teams, but three of the last six losses have been by fewer than seven points, including last yearâs tough-to-swallow 21-18 loss to the Thunderbolts in Cranston.
But can the Tigers break that streak this weekend? While the Tigers are atop the Division II-B ranks at 4-0 (outscoring those opponents, 153-44) and have a healthy, veteran bunch ready for this contest, the âBolts (0-3 in the division, 0-5 overall) trudge into the weekend a banged-up unit.
Both head coaches, the Tigersâ Dave Caito and the Boltsâ Tom Centore, are very familiar with each other. Caito was an All-State player and Centore (an â84 JHS graduate) was an assistant coach at Johnston High during the late 1980s and early â90s, and both were also inducted into the JHS Hall of Fame this past summer.
All eyes are going to be on Tolman junior tailback Mory Keita, who had a breakout game in last weekâs 41-18 win over Mount Hope. Keita ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries. If the Bolts are unable to contain him, the Tigers may find themselves with their elusive non-league win.
St. Raphael at Cranston West
The Saints (3-1 in Division II-B action) have played excellent football over the past few weekends, and their fine play was on display in last weekendâs 21-12 victory on the road over previously-unbeaten West Warwick.
This weekend, the Saints are going to need another superb effort because they are facing the tougher of the two Cranston schools in the Falcons, who at 3-1, are in a three-way tie for second place and have already defeated the Townies, 19-10, and Barrington, 20-15.
Last weekend, Cranston West played poorly and was stunned by South Kingstown, 40-7, so the Falcons may be out to somewhat redeem themselves in tomorrowâs non-leaguer.
While the Saints boast multi-talented junior Charles Correa, the Falcons also have their own superb playmaker in Bryan Stetson, who has scored seven touchdowns (five on the ground) and leads his team in rushing and receiving yards. Containing him will be a true test for the Saints.
Mt. Hope at East Providence
The Townies (3-1 in Div. I, 4-1 overall) nearly suffered an upset defeat of their own last weekend to the Thunderbolts, and even though they racked up over 450 yards of offense, they lost four fumbles and had to hang on for a 27-19 victory.
That being said, donât expect the Townies to take it easy against the Huskies (2-2 in II-B play), who would also like to erase the sting from their lopsided loss last Friday, but will be hard-pressed to do so against their bigger, deeper hosts.
One player who could be in for a big night is E.P. senior fullback Jalin Braxton, who has ran for eight touchdowns this year (six on carries of 40 or more yards) and is nearing the 1,000-yard mark for the season. After seeing what Keita did for Tolman last Friday, one can only shudder at the damage E.P.âs All-State back can do at the Huskiesâ expense.
Central Falls at Exeter/West Greenwich
The Warriors will be looking to halt a five-game losing streak to the Scarlet Knights, who are seeking their fifth straight trip to the Super Bowl.
EWG lost one of the finest players in their programâs history, two-time All-State running back Al Georgio, to graduation, but they can still run the ball and they have been doing it well behind a large offensive line and tailback Dwight Anderson (eight rushing TDs).
The Warriors, meanwhile, have been getting the job done behind an exceptional defense, which has allowed a league-low 20 points and has seen their first-string âDâ allow 14 of them in as many quarters of play. They also struck gold with running back Josh Brandon, who has rushed for 100 yards in each of the Warriorsâ last three games.
Lincoln at Moses Brown
A must-win game for the Lions, who can jump back into the Division IIIâs playoff picture with a victory over the Quakers, who managed to eke out a 17-6 win over Burrillville last week that was aided by two dropped touchdown passes by the Broncos.
If the Lions, who were routed at home last week by Tiverton, 38-0, plan to win this game, they are going to need to get some key players healthy, including junior linebacker Osel-lie Saine, and avoid turnovers and three-and-outs.
Ponaganset at PCD/Wheeler/Juanita Sanchez
When his teamâs 2011 schedule came out and he saw a bye week smack in the middle of it, Ponaganset head coach Brian Gendreau did everything he could to fill it, but the best he could do was this non-leaguer against the co-op Knights.
The Chieftains, who are 2-2 and gave their Division II-B playoff hopes a boost with their last-minute 13-6 victory over Woonsocket last week, plan to empty their bench against their Division IV opponent (1-3) and use this game to help them get ready for their Oct. 22 showdown at home against Tolman.
Cumberland at Toll Gate
The Clippers found some momentum in their 34-0 rout of Warwick Vets last Friday, and they might have also found their running back of the future in sophomore Joe Fine, who ran for a career-high 123 yards on just 14 carries.
With big Division II-A games at home coming up in the following two weekends against powerful Johnston and Central, the Clippers would love to string together another strong showing against the Titans, who are 0-4 in II-B and have been shut out in three of those games. Expect big things from Cumberlandâs defense in this game.
Burrillville at Classical
After losing their last three division contests at home by a total of 18 points, the Broncos will be hoping that some âroadâ cooking and a little bit of good luck will finally get them in the win column.
The Broncos will hope that a heavy dose of fullback Kevin Deschamps and the passing of Glen St. Pierre can lead them to victory. Classical, meanwhile, is led by its ground game, and have two tailbacks, Tim Eng and Pat Comerford, who have totaled 10 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Shea at Tiverton
The Raiders turned in a commendable effort in last weekâs 17-7 loss to unbeaten Central, but now they will try to duplicate that performance when they face a Tiverton team fresh off a 38-point blasting of Lincoln.
Talented tailback Keyvon Kronsberg will be surely targeted all night long by the Raidersâ defense, but can Sheaâs offense break through against a very difficult Tigersâ âDâ that has yielded just 25 points in its last four games?