CUMBERLAND — The Blackstone Valley area will be well represented on Friday night at Tucker Field with four local squads participating in a trio of Injury Fund tilts.
The two-quarter, non-league games, which begin at 6 p.m., kicks off with Central Falls battling Shea, followed by last year’s Division II state runner-up Tolman facing Cumberland at 7 p.m.
While tomorrow night’s game means nothing in the standings, Cumberland coach Chris Skurka will be eager to see how his club fares against the Tigers.
The Clippers came just a win short from making the playoffs for the second consecutive year last season. Cumberland is minus several players from that squad that finished 3-4 in Div. II-A.
“We lost quite a bit,” said Skurka on Monday morning after he was forced to cancel practice due to the effects of Hurricane Irene. “We lost some big impact players, but we have filled in nicely with some other guys.”
The Clippers will have a new face at quarterback with junior Mitchell Baxter lining up behind center. Baxter, a tight end during the 2010 season, takes over the signal-calling duties that was held by junior Trent Vasey.
The move is not a demotion for Vasey, a strong receiver. Skurka just felt the switch makes his offense a little more versatile with the speedy Baxter at QB and several other capable hands on his roster.
“Last year Mitch was a two-way starter. He has a lot of experience even though he’s only a junior,” said the CHS coach. “[The move] makes our offense more diverse. Trent has very good hands and it just gives us another target to throw. By using Mitchell at quarterback, it give us another option at tight end, too.”
The Clippers offensive and defensive line will by led by experienced senior captains Brian Baxter (G, DE) and Anthony Camstra (C, NT). Another senior captain, Mitchell Gaboury, returns for his final season at linebacker and fullback.
The Clippers came on strong last season en route to their 5-6 overall mark. But one defeat that was particularly heartbreaking was a double-overtime loss to rival Shea.
“That game kind of determined our fate last year,” Skurka admitted. “Going back in retrospect, we could have been in the playoffs if we would have beaten them.”
Cumberland plays host to Cranston West on Sept. 9 in another non-leaguer and then begins its Div. II-A slate with Shea at Max Read Field on Sept. 16.
Will the Clippers end their two-year drought from the postseason?
“I am not confident, but I think it should be a goal of every coach to want to make it to the playoffs every year,” Skurka said. “Obviously, I don’t know this early. Year to year Division II is always competitive. The games always go back and forth. You can never tell. You just got to string together at least four wins and that should get you into the playoffs.”