December 22, 2014
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Football slate worked out perfectly

Notes written while analyzing the votes – in the football poll.

Schedule makers in college and professional sports often have a flair for the dramatic. They’ll deliberately schedule a Red Sox-Yankees series to end the season or an Ohio State-Michigan game late in the year with the Big Ten title on the line.

It doesn’t usually work out that way at the high-school level. Drama is tough to peg, and even if it was, it wouldn’t be a priority.

But it’s been quite the happy accident in Rhode Island Division I football this season.

At the beginning of the year, four teams were talked about as favorites and they quickly separated themselves – in part because they weren’t playing each other.

In the first four weeks of the league season, only La Salle and Portsmouth got together.

That set-up is yielding quite a finish.

Starting with the much-hyped game between Hendricken and Cranston East on Oct. 12, there’s been a big game on the docket every Friday. The Hawks won that game against East, then went on the road and got beat by Portsmouth.

The next week, East and Portsmouth staged perhaps the game of the year, with East rallying from a 25-point deficit – in the second half – to win.

Then last week, East and La Salle got together, with the Rams fully asserting themselves as the best team in the state thanks to a 41-13 win.

And now – with only a few Thanksgiving league games left – comes the always enticing match-up between Hendricken and La Salle. The Rams enter with an unbeaten league record. Hendricken is a game back. The winner gets the No. 1 seed, no questions asked.

How’s that for a big finish?

Accident or not, I’ll take it.

Pats have built their program

I haven’t covered much junior varsity soccer in my day, but a few years ago, the Pilgrim girls demanded some attention. They had a strong regular season and advanced to the JV state championship, where they lost to Mount St. Charles.

I remember Pilgrim coaches saying they hoped that the success at that level would help build the program. The varsity team went 2-11-3 that year and was struggling even with a move to Division II.

Four years later, the building has happened – and it’s now reaching new heights.

Many of the players on that JV team graduated last year, but before they left, they helped the Pats turn into a contender. The influx of talent that came after them has carried the torch, and the Pats are now a legitimate threat to win the Division II championship.

When they won a playoff game earlier this week, it was the first for the program since 2000. The fact that it took two days – the game was suspended due to darkness on Monday – was symbolic, considering Pilgrim’s first-round struggles in recent years. It wasn’t going to be easy, but the Pats made it through.

Pilgrim is now in the semifinals, also for the first time since 2000. It’s also the first time since 2008 that a Warwick girls’ soccer team has been that far. Vets made the D-I semis that year.

Knights will be a hot ticket again

They lost their first game, but don’t count on the CCRI men’s basketball team losing many more this season. The Knights return two of the best players – Bryan Yarce and Desmond Williams – from their team that finished as the national runner-up a season ago. The Knights entered this season ranked third in the country. They’ve added some size, and another former Rhode Island high school stand-out in guard Rob Hazard.

Their goal is to make it back to nationals, and the quest is worth watching.
CCRI’s first home game is Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. against UConn-Avery Point.

Turkey Day memories

We are currently working on our annual Turkey Bowl section that celebrates the area’s Thanksgiving football rivalries. Both the Pilgrim-Vets and Cranston East-Cranston West games are hitting milestones this year. This year’s game will be the 50th for Pilgrim and Vets and the 40th for East and West. For Hendricken and Toll Gate, this year will be the 41st game.

With that as the backdrop, the Turkey Bowl section will focus in part on history, and we’re looking to talk to anyone who played in the first Thanksgiving games in each of those series. If you played or know someone who did, e-mail williamg@rhodybeat.com or call 732-3100 and ask for William.
You’ll be adding a nice side dish to our Thanksgiving football main course.

William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and williamg@rhodybeat.com.


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