Now the games count.
The preseason scrimmages, Injury Fund contests, and last weekendâ€™s non-league openers are all history. Now the high school football games, pitting division opponents against each other, mean something in the standings.
And they get under way tonight, with eight league games scattered throughout the state, and one, a Division IV contest between North Smithfield and Hope, taking place tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in Providence.
Tolman will make its Division I debut tonight at 7 when the Tigers head to Cranston Stadium to take on a veteran Cranston East club. Expectations are sky high at Cranston East this year, where the Thunderbolts, who havenâ€™t had a winning season since 2008, are expected to return to their winning ways.
The â€™Bolts shredded Division II Toll Gate, 47-12, last week, but the Tigers did likewise in their 49-6 trouncing of Division II Mount Hope. Running back Mamour Samb ran for over 100 yards and scored four touchdowns to key the Tigersâ€™ attack.
A win over the â€™Bolts would go a long way for the Tigers because the next two weeks promise to be awfully difficult ones. They will host mighty La Salle Academy next weekend and pay a visit to equally-potent Bishop Hendricken the week after.
The top game taking place tonight inside the Blackstone Valley is Cumberlandâ€™s 7 p.m. marquee showdown with Division II-B foe Central at Tucker Field. It was the Clippersâ€™ 19-6 win over the Knights last season that clinched a playoff berth and came in the middle of an impressive seven-game win streak.
The Knights, who lost to Chariho in last yearâ€™s Super Bowl, graduated a lot of key players, but still have their share of skill players ready to do some damage. And speaking of skill players, the Clippers have almost all of them back from last yearâ€™s team, starting with their captains, tailback Erik Travers, tight end Trent Vasey, and wide receiver Mitchell Baxter.
Like Cumberland, Woonsocket has an interesting Division II showdown on its hands in the form of a contest on the road tonight at 7 against Johnston, which traditionally plays awfully tough at home and again promises to be a contender for a playoff berth.
The Novans, who are trying to erase the sting of last yearâ€™s 1-6 record, raised some eyebrows last weekend by defeating Division I East Providence, 21-0. With tailback Jalen Evans, who ran for over 100 yards in last weekâ€™s win, back in action, and the Novans a year older, this should be the year they return to their winning ways.
Itâ€™s hard to believe, but Shea hasnâ€™t experienced a winning season since 2007. But the Raiders have a good chance to get this season off to a promising start and follow up last weekâ€™s 22-6 win over Lincoln with another victory over Pilgrim tonight at 7 p.m. at the Patriotsâ€™ complex.
The Patriots, who have won just 10 league games over the last six years, appear to be headed for another long season, but the Raiders appear to be ready to take the next step up. Jason Almeida, Dennis Lloyd, and Aaron Rodriques, who played big roles in the victory over Lincoln, will look to continue their solid play this weekend.
St. Raphael, which suffered a tough non-league loss last week to former Division I foe Bishop Hendricken, will do its best to give Rogers a rude welcome to Division II football tonight when the Saints travel to Toppa Field for a 7 p.m. meeting against the former Division III champs and their one-time Thanskgiving opponents.
The Vikings are off to a rough 0-2 start, having lost to Division I Barrington and Portsmouth by a combined score of 74-16. The Saints, with all-around standout tailback Charles Correa back in action, could extend Rogersâ€™ misery and bus home with a satisfying victory if they give a strong performance.
Lincoln suffered through its first winless season in recent memory, but the Lions will try to kick off their Division III season on the right foot tonight at 7 p.m. at Ferguson Field when they take on a Moses Brown unit thatâ€™s experiencing a rebuilding season. Quarterback John Galang leads the Lions into battle.
Burrillville has a long drive to Middletown tonight to face the Division III Super Bowl finalists in a 7 p.m. game. The junior-ladened Broncos topped Division IV Scituate last week, 28-14, but the competition promises to be tougher when they battle a veteran Islanders team determined to get back to the Super Bowl and win it.
North Smithfield, which has been 6-2 in each of the last two years, hope to keep the good times rolling in its contest with the Blue Wave, who are looking to bounce back after enduring its first losing season since 2007.
The Northmen, who took a 25-23 thriller from Division II Central last weekend, has most of their roster back from a season ago. That includes 1,000-yard tailback Paris Correia, quarterback Dan Jordan, and tight end Peter Keenan.
In past years, Central Falls has had its way with Division IV opponent Smithfield, but this year, the Warriors could be in for a battle with the much-improved Sentinels in their 6 p.m. meeting at Macomber Stadium.
After winning just five times from 2007-10, the Sentinels posted a 6-2 mark last year and earned a playoff berth. With a lot of returning veterans back, Smithfield could find itself playing bonus football after Thanksgiving again.
The Warriors, meanwhile, were hit hard by graduation following last seasonâ€™s appearance in the Super Bowl versus eventual champion Mount Pleasant. Their youth and experience showed in last weekâ€™s 43-0 loss to former division foe Middletown.
East Providence is also in action, but the Division I Townies are venturing to Massachusetts for another non-league battle, this one against Foxboro of the competitive Hockomock League.