Some of Warwick’s best will get one last shot at high-school football glory this weekend when Cranston Stadium hosts the second annual Rhode Island High School Football Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be the second installment of the intra-state all-star series that began last year, when the Governor’s Cup game between Rhode Island and Connecticut was discontinued. Teams of graduated seniors, split into East and West squads, will square off.
As always, it’s a chance for one more go-round on the gridiron.
“I think a lot of kids just really want to play more football,” said Moses Brown head coach Willie Edwards, who heads up the East squad. “For some of them, this is going to be their last opportunity. It’s exciting for everybody.”
Five from players from Warwick schools will play for Edwards’ East squad: Bishop Hendricken’s Remington Blue and John Larkin, Warwick Vets’ Dave MacDonald and Tim Hogan and Pilgrim’s Nick Burns. They’ll be joined by standouts from D-I powers like Barrington and Portsmouth, plus D-II runner-up Moses Brown.
The West squad, coached by Classical’s Kris McCall, will feature players from D-I contenders Cranston East, Cranston West, La Salle, D-II powerhouses like Johnston and D-III champion Mt. Pleasant. The dividing line for the teams is Interstate 95.
Last year’s inaugural game was put together last-minute, when the Governor’s Cup series was not renewed. But even though it was patched together, the game went off without a hitch, drawing in the best players and packing the stands at Bryant University.
Interest remained high this season, and the coaches association expects a big crowd again as the game moves to Cranston Stadium.
“These kids never experienced the Connecticut game,” Edwards said. “All they know is this game. There’s a lot of excitement. It’s a great thing to be a part of.”
The East won last year’s game thanks in large part to the dynamic play of Portsmouth’s Bobby Chavous and Matt Greenman, who both went on to Mount Ida College.
Talent will be all over the field again in 2014.
The East team is headlined by Blue – a two-time Super Bowl MVP – and reigning Gatorade Player of the Year Matt Sewall of Portsmouth. Blue rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in his Hendricken career and was right at home at Cranston Stadium, where he won his Super Bowl hardware. Sewall, who played quarterback for Portsmouth and rushed for nearly 2,000 yards this past season, will line up all over the field for the all-star squad.
“They’re very talented,” Edwards said. “We have to find ways to get the football in their hands. Remy has looked really strong. A lot of our game plan is going to revolve around getting him the ball.”
The running back corps also includes Portsmouth’s Travis O’Brien. Moses Brown’s Eric Cosmopoulos and East Greenwich’s Andrew Miner are handling the quarterback duties for the East. Cosmopoulos ranked second in the state in passing yards to Cranston East’s Corvese, with 2,629. Miner was fourth with 1,762.
Hendricken’s Larkin will push for time in the receiving corps,
Edwards thinks his defense will also be a strength. First-team All-Staters Carl Neff of Exeter/West Greenwich and Sam Greenfield of Moses Brown will anchor the defensive line, in front of a linebacking corps headed by Barrington’s J.R. Martin and Moses Brown’s Bryan McAdams. Pilgrim’s Burns may see some time at defensive end and will also handle kickoff duties.
Vets’ Hogan and MacDonald will also be key players on defense. They’ve stood out to Edwards with their hard-nosed play.
“They’re my throwbacks,” he said.
Edwards has been involved in the all-star program for five years, beginning with the Governor’s Cup. With that perspective, he’s been impressed by his team’s togetherness.
“I’ve been involved in the all-star program for five years and I’ve never noticed a team come together so quickly,” he said. “They’re all getting along and grasping everything we’re doing. Football IQ is probably our biggest strength.”
It’ll be tested against the West squad, which is led by Cranston East quarterback Alex Corvese. The first-team All-State quarterback passed for more than 3,000 yards this past season, while throwing 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
“Alex is outstanding,” said McCall, the West team’s head coach. “He’s undersized but he’s very good. He’s really set the pace for us.”
Corvese will have one of his favorite receivers in the fold with Jimmy Saab suiting up. He racked up 843 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Their East teammate Marven Beauvais, the state’s leading receiver, opted not to play in the game due to a heavy summer course load at the University of Rhode Island, where he’ll play in the fall. La Salle standout Keon Wilson is also part of the receiving corps.
Corvese will also have a major weapon next to him in the backfield, where Mt. Pleasant star Randolph Zleh is ready to shine. Zleh racked up 2,000 yards rushing this past season on his way to a second consecutive first-team All-State nod.
“Our running game is going to be very strong,” McCall.
Cranston West’s Jack Hammond will help anchor the linebacking corps for the West squad. Central’s Jonathan Amado and Mt. Pleasant’s Gui Zleh – Randolph’s brother – will anchor a talented secondary.
“I feel really good about our defense,” McCall said.
Whatever happens on the field, everyone involved expects the all-star game to be a success once again. Rhode Island struggled to win the Governor’s Cup the last few years.
In this game, everybody wins.
“It’s nice to have a home game,” Edwards said. “You get more kids involved, more coaches, the game is in Rhode Island so more fans are coming. It’s a fun time.”