Asking a high school football coach to “preview” his team during the final week of preseason practice is really premature. It’s at least a week too early for that. Besides, coaches only want to talk about known commodities. Sometimes it takes half of a season to figure out the identity of these embryonic football teams.
Coaches are always willing to talk about certain subjects: veteran players, team leaders, practice schedules, lack of depth on the roster … there’s a whole litany of subjects that coaches are dealing with as the summer begins to fade away.
Here are the comments of three area coaches during a lull in the action, nine days before the first week of the regular season:
Gennaro Ferraro, Burrillville High
“Last season is over. This team has a chance to write its own history,” Ferraro said when asked about his 2010 team that went 4-4 and lost three close league games. “Our program has done pretty well over the past decade. This team wants to carry on the tradition. We’ve got a great presence of alumni around our program. Parents and former players come to watch our games. The kids know there is this pride in our football program and it makes them play harder.”
Ferraro lists the veteran leaders of this 2011 team.
“Kevin Deschamps will play running back and safety for us,” the coach said. “He is a four-year starter for Burrillville. Kevin is around 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds.”
Deschamps gained 654 yards and scored eight touchdowns last season while teaming in a backfield with departed starters Roger Blanchard and Brendan Darigan.
“Kyle Losardo, who is 6-5 and weighs around 250 pounds, will start on our offensive and defensive lines,” Ferraro added. “Kyle is a hard worker and a great teammate.”
Succeeding Blanchard at quarterback will be Glenn St. Pierre, a 6-1, 180-pound junior who backed up Blanchard last season.
“Glenn is poised to take over at quarterback,” Ferraro said. “I think he’ll do a good job.”
Tri-captain Steve McCormick is the other player Ferraro wanted to mention. McCormick is 6-1 and 165 pounds. He will play tight end and linebacker for the Broncos, who will open their regular season at home on Saturday, Sept. 10, against North Smithfield.
“North Smithfield is coming off a playoff season,” Ferraro said. “It should be an interesting opener for us.”
Mike Sassi, St. Raphael Academy
“We’re very excited about this season,” said Sassi. “We made the playoffs last year and that’s our goal this year, as always. If we stay healthy, I think we can make some noise again this year. But because of our (lack of) numbers, we need to stay healthy.”
The Saints have around 45 players out for the team, counting freshmen, Sassi admitted.
“We have four captains,” the coach said. “Davon Robertson is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end and defensive end who is one of four finalists from Rhode Island for the U.S. Army All-Star game. Davon carries a 91 average in the classroom and is being looked at by a couple of Ivy League schools along with New Hampshire, Fordham and a few other schools.”
Robertson has fine speed for a big man. He is most remembered for outrunning Tolman’s secondary on a long touchdown catch-and-run in the D-II playoffs last November.
“Davon is quite a weapon,” Sassi said. “He has really worked hard on catching the ball. I think his confidence level has increased with all the work he has done.”
Robertson will be joined on the line by two-way tackle Cory Tweedie, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior who is the grandson of former Saints star Richard Lynch. Junior co-captain Chris Ventura will play guard and linebacker. He’s 5-11 and 215 pounds.
The Saints’ other big man up front is two-way tackle Jason Colon (6-1 and 270). SRA may lack depth but it does have good size.
Senior Julian Diaz takes over at quarterback for the Saints, who were led the past two seasons by 6-foot-6 Trevor Vasey. Vasey tossed 17 TD passes last year. Diaz, at 5-11 and 170 pounds, will present a different kind of threat (he’s more athletic) while running Sassi’s favored Wing-T offense.
“Julian is a good passer and runner,” the coach said. “He’s more of a traditional Wing-T quarterback (than Vasey).”
Fullback and inside linebacker Patrick Miranda will play a key role in the offense. The 5-11, 210-pound senior averaged nearly four yards per carry last season, often taking the ball in short-yardage situations.
“Patrick also led the team in tackles,” Sassi said. “He made second-team all-division at linebacker.”
Junior running back/wide receiver Charles Correa also returns.
“Charles gained 1,253 all-purpose yards for us last season,” Sassi said. “Most people know Charles for his basketball but he’s a really tough running back and wide receiver who also is very dangerous returning kicks.”
The Saints will scrimmage Cranston East on Friday evening. They open their season on Friday, Sept. 9, at Bishop Hendricken, then meet Tolman High on Sept. 16 at Pariseau Field. That game drew approximately 1,000 fans to the McCoy Annex gridiron in September of 2010. It is a resumption of the old Thanksgiving Day rivalry between the two Pawtucket schools that was made possible when SRA dropped out of Division I two years ago.
Wes Pennington, North Smithfield
The Northmen are coming off one of the greatest football seasons in school history. They went 6-2 in Division IV last season and made the playoffs for the first time.
“Last year’s team kicked the door down,” Pennington admitted. “We have a good group of kids this year who want to take the next step.”
North Smithfield is one of the smaller schools, enrollment-wise, in the state, which accounts for the paucity of strong football teams over the years. But that could be changing.
“We have over 40 players out for football,” athletic director Matt Tek admitted. “There’s a lot of excitement about the program and it is showing in the numbers of kids coming out for the team.”
“We started preseason practice with 46 kids and we still have 42 around,” the coach said. “That’s pretty good. We have seven or eight returning starters and around 22 guys from last year’s team who had game experience.”
Key players include Chris Mancini, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker and fullback. Running back Paris Correia also returns. Dan Jordan takes over at quarterback and will also play safety. Junior Ryan Masynk played center and linebacker last year and will team with Mancini to provide the kind of toughness needed to sustain last year’s program momentum.
“Our last group of seniors left this program in a good place,” Pennington said. “This year’s seniors know what they have to do. We want to take the next step.”
The Northmen, who have one of the best playing facilities in the state, will host an Injury Fund round-robin scrimmage on Friday night. Burrillville will face Smithfield at 6 p.m, followed by Johnston against North Providence at 7 p.m. The host team will then meet Ponaganset at 8 p.m.
North Smithfield opens its season on Saturday, Sept. 10, at Burrillville.