At the end of November, these could be potential semifinal-round playoff contests, but this weekend, they are merely two regular-season games that highlight the Blackstone Valley’s high school schedule.
In what may arguably be the game of the weekend in the entire state, East Providence heads to Warwick on Friday for a 7 p.m. showdown of 3-1 squads with defending Division I champ Bishop Hendricken at the Hawks’ Hayden Field. Both teams are in a three-way tie for second place with Cranston West (3-1) and right behind La Salle (4-0).
Another game that could well compete for “Game of the Weekend” honors is Tolman’s high noon battle on Saturday at “The Reservation” in North Scituate against Ponaganset, which recently saw its Division II-B record improve to 3-1 with a forfeit victory over Mount Hope. The Tigers are 4-0 and can sew up a repeat playoff berth with a win.
Central Falls can also grab its fifth league victory and a postseason spot on Saturday when it visits North Providence in a 1 p.m. Division IV affair at the Cougars’ field. The Warriors are 4-1 and enjoying their best season since their ’05 Super Bowl championship season, while the Cougars are 2-2 and fighting for their playoff lives.
Someone’s Division II playoff hopes will take a serious jolt tomorrow when Cumberland entertains Johnston in a II-A game at Tucker Field. Both teams are 2-2 and tied for fourth place, which brings the II-A’s final postseason spot.
As for the rest of tomorrow’s slate (all the games begin at 7 p.m.), St. Raphael (3-1) will look to continue its winning ways and drive toward a playoff berth when it entertains Toll Gate (0-4) in a Division II-B matchup at Pariseau Field, Woonsocket (0-4) will visit Mount Hope (1-3) in a II-B game in Bristol, and Shea (0-4) and Coventry (0-4) will battle for their first II-A victory at the Knotty Oakers’ field.
North Smithfield (1-2) also hopes to keep its Division IV playoff hopes alive when the Northmen host the Providence Country Day/Wheeler/Juanita Sanchez co-op team (1-3) on their turf complex, and Narragansett (2-2) pays a visit to Lincoln (1-4) for a Division III matchup at Ferguson Field.
Rounding out the schedule is a 10:30 a.m. non-league game on Saturday at Burrillville’s Alumni Field between a pair of winless teams, Scituate and the Broncos.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s games:
Tolman at Ponaganset
This game took on added significance when the RIIL decided to dock Mount Hope of a 34-7 victory over Ponaganset on Sept. 25 when it was reported that a new player on the Huskies’ roster was deemed ineligible. So instead of being 2-2, the Chieftains are 3-1 and now have a chance to grab a share of the lead in the division with the Tigers.
Both teams played non-league games last weekend to help prepare them for this week’s duel, and while the Chieftains warmed up with an easy non-league win over the Division IV’s Providence Country Day/Wheeler/Juanita Sanchez co-op squad, the Tigers turned in arguably their worst showing of the season in a loss to Division I Cranston East.
That 25-14 defeat was a very winnable contest for the Tigers, but poor blocking, terrible coverage in their secondary, and various other mistakes came back to bite them.
Things will certainly need to change this weekend, because the Chieftains have a solid quarterback in Chris Larrabee, who has yet to throw an interception in 58 pass attempts, and a strong backfield that’s led by fullback Scott Peterson, who is also the team’s kicker and has a 42-yard field goal to his credit.
The Chieftains’ ‘D’, which has allowed 20 points in its three non-forfeit league games, will face its biggest challenge of the season in the Tigers’ explosive offense, which leads all Division II schools with 153 points. Mory Keita, who ran wild for 242 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Mount Hope two weeks ago, Elvis George, and Andre Gilbert lead a lightning-quick Tolman backfield.
East Providence at Bishop Hendricken
We could be looking at a down-to-the-wire slugfest here. Not only do these two rivals have the same league record, but they have also scored as many points as each other (111), and defensively, the Hawks have allowed three fewer points (71) than the Townies.
The Hawks come into this contest with victories in four of their last five games with the Townies, including last year’s 38-35 thriller in the Division I semifinals. That duel was best remembered for the Hawks’ frantic comeback and game-winning field goal with two seconds to play and a post-game altercation between a Hendricken parent and E.P. player.
Some of the state’s best offensive players will be on display in this duel, such as E.P. quarterback Brandon Peters and All-State fullback Jalin Braxton and Hendricken quarterback Ryan Brannigan. Whichever team wins the battle in the trenches and plays the best defense will find itself with a hard-earned ‘W’.
Central Falls at North Providence
These have been the best of times for the Warriors, who picked up a big 39-6 win over defending champ Exeter/West Greenwich last weekend and have a chance to sew up a playoff berth at the expense of their longtime league rivals.
Defense has been the name of the game for C.F., which has allowed just 26 points in its five league games. Smithfield is a distant second in this department with 60, but the Sentinels have played two fewer games.
But this week’s test will be a big one for the Warriors. The Cougars are averaging 36.25 points and over 300 yards of offense per game, and if the Warriors are unable to contain them, this game could wind up a shootout.
Offensively, quarterback Brandon Canuto and fullback Josh Brandon are leading the way. Brandon has four straight games of more than 100 yards on the ground, including last Saturday’s career-best 246-yard effort against EWG. The Cougars will also certainly have their work cut out for them defensively.
Johnston at Cumberland
Last season, the Panthers snapped a three-game win streak by the Clippers that also put a large dent in Cumberland’s playoff aspirations. This season, Johnston would dearly love to dash Cumberland’s postseason hopes again, but the Clippers will be determined to not let that happen.
Cumberland is coming off back-to-back wins over Warwick Vets, 34-0, and non-league foe Toll Gate, 35-8, and solid play from two of its younger players, quarterback Brendan Guerin and running back/linebacker Joe Fine, sparked its attack. Big things will again be expected from that duo and the Clippers’ veteran leaders in this showdown.
The Panthers enter this game with back-to-back league losses, and one of them may have taken place in arguably the state’s game of the season, a 42-36 double-overtime defeat to undefeated Central.
Toll Gate at St. Raphael
If you’re looking for the blowout of the weekend, this is it – the Saints, who are fourth out of the 16 Division II teams in total points scored (103) and fewest points allowed (42), vs. the Titans, who have been outscored 126-20 in their four II-B losses.
The Saints, who had an unexpected bye week last Friday when heavy rain forced the cancellation of a non-league duel with former Division I foe Cranston West at Cranston Stadium, have won three straight in the league, including a 21-12 win over West Warwick that landed the Wizards their first league loss.
SRA junior standout Charles Correa, who is a five-way tie for second place in the state in touchdowns scored (nine), should be in for another productive night at the Titans’ expense.
PCD/Wheeler/J.S. at North Smithfield
The last time we heard from the Northmen, they delivered a 19-12 victory two Fridays ago over defending champion Exeter/West Greenwich that may have rescued their season. Last weekend, they rested up with their second bye week in four weekends, and tomorrow, they will try to keep the good times rolling with a victory over their co-op foes.
The Knights’ only league win was a resounding 48-6 win over winless and woeful Scituate, but since then, they have been outscored 89-54 in their league losses to EWG, N.P., and unbeaten Mount Pleasant. If the Northmen play the way they are capable of playing, this game could be said and done by halftime.
Narragansett at Lincoln
The Mariners are hoping to make a late push for a playoff berth over the next few weeks when they battle the bottom of the standings in the Lions tomorrow, winless Burrillville next week, and one-win Classical in two weeks. But the Lions, who are hoping for a solid finish to the season, will do their best to throw a monkey wrench into the Mariners’ plans.
While the Lions are still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, they will need a wealth of outside help from other teams. They will also need to help themselves by drastically cutting down on their penalties, fumbles, and mental miscues, which played large roles in last week’s 14-0 loss to Moses Brown.
Woonsocket at Mount Hope
For the past two seasons, Woonsocket vs. Mount Hope was one of the Division II’s featured attractions. But this year, with the winless Novans (0-5 overall) trying to rebuild and get better each week and the Huskies’ playoff hopes taking a huge hit with their forfeit loss, things have changed and this is just another ordinary game on the schedule.
The Villa Novans are coming off a bye week and two excellent weeks of practice. They dropped a last-minute nailbiter two weekends ago at home to Ponaganset, 13-6, but this weekend, they hope to turn the corner and find a way to bus home with a well-deserved victory.
Shea at Coventry
As it’s been said time and time again in boxing, “Someone’s ‘O’ has got to go.” Unfortunately, we’re not talking about two unbeaten records, but the winless marks of these longtime adversaries.
The Oakers enter the weekend fresh off their first win, a 38-8 non-league triumph over Division II-B Pilgrim, but the Raiders haven’t tasted the thrill of victory since their close non-league win over Lincoln in the season’s opening week.
The Raiders, who have lost their last two decisions to the Knotty Oakers after winning the previous four, have been outscored 118-41 in their four division losses, while the Oakers’ total count has been 84-22.
Scituate at Burrillville
Unless an absolute disaster happens, the Broncos should delight their home fans and produce an easy “Homecoming Day” victory over the Spartans.
The Broncos are 0-5 in Division III play (0-6 overall), but could easily have two or three wins had they not drop close games to East Greenwich, Lincoln, and Moses Brown in consecutive weekends at home.
The Division IV Spartans, meanwhile, have been outscored by a 253-24 margin in their five losses. All of their defeats have been by 36 or more points.