The regular season for RI high school football kicks off this upcoming weekend, and the teams in the Beacon Communications coverage area look to make noise and compete for their respective Super Bowls.
Here are some of my predictions for our teams this season: Bishop Hendricken
Of course, the Hawks should once again be considered the team to beat in the state and are the likely favorites once again.
Sure, they lost quite a few playmakers and leaders from last season, including guys like Xavier Truss and Israel Emmanuel, Will Tuttle and Carl Greene, but they are still plenty stacked in all three phases and have what seems to be an impenetrable culture of winning.
Quarterback Tom Comella enters his senior season under center. He’s a true dual threat quarterback and is wise beyond his years … now as a senior and another year older, I’m expecting a big year from him. His brother Nic, who has been a force on the defensive side of the ball, is also seeing more reps on offensive. The two should be a dynamic pair.
Then of course, there is fellow senior Angel Sanchez, who was named the Warwick Beacon’s player of the year for 2018. He should once again be an All-State player at both receiver and cornerback.
My biggest question surrounding this team will be the offensive line. They return key pieces, but the loss of Xavier Truss is a big one. The Hawks have traditionally had strong fronts, so my money is on them being solid once again, it’ll be interesting see how fast they can recover, though.
There is also the undeniable target on their backs, as well as a potential championship hangover. Those items are something to consider, but this team is just too talented and experienced to let those things get the best of them.
At this point, I believe injuries are the only thing that would keep the Hawks from at least reaching the State Championship, and even injuries may not be enough. This team is just too deep, talented, and experienced to be stopped. Prediction: State Championship win. Pilgrim
The Patriots intrigue me more than any other team heading into 2019.
Pilgrim was an afterthought in 2018, coming in off of consecutive down years and with a new, relatively inexperienced coaching staff. But that did not stop the hungry Pats from putting together one of the best campaigns throughout the state last year and reaching the Division III Super Bowl, and nearly winning it.
Pilgrim lost a couple of pieces, but returns the vast majority of its core from last season.
Ethan Laramee is back and is ready to cement his place as one of the top defensive backs in the league. Dimitri Ayres is also returning, and should be one of the more versatile running backs in the Division III. Mike Borges returns under center, while Connor Fallon looks to build on his breakout season in 2018.
Experience will be huge for this team as well.
Last year, the players were just learning how to win and what that success felt like. They now know what it takes this time around and are even more motivated having tasted it. The coaching staff is now another year more experienced and seems to be hitting all the right buttons.
The biggest question in my eyes will be whether or not last season was an aberration, or if these Pats are legitimate. Based on what I saw last year and this preseason, I am buying into the hype. Prediction: Division III Super Bowl win. Toll Gate
The Titans look to build on their 2018 success, as they made the playoffs for the second straight season. Toll Gate was eliminated in the early going, but feels as though it has what it takes to take that next step.
The Titans are still a bit young, with the majority of its lineup being sophomores while including only eight seniors.
However, the seniors that are returning are solid, and junior quarterback Grayson Pasquina should take another step forward in his development. Head coach Jim Stringfellow has been raving about receiver Kenny Morel, as well as guys like Anthony Shaw and Christian Rapoza.
I believe that the Titans have the talent to return to the playoffs and maybe even make a legitimate run … but this seems like a team that is still a year or two off from being a favorite.
Prediction: Early playoff exit Cranston West
The Falcons were another team that surprised the state last year as they went from being a possible playoff team to the Division I Super Bowl runners up. West had every chance to top North Kingstown in that game as well, but came up a hair short.
The Falcons lost a big chunk from last year, but return enough to remain toward the top of the league. Quarterback Cam Alves is among the best the signal callers in the state and will continue to get help from guys like Andrew Dionizio and Brennan Stetson. Matt Carvalho returns, along with Garrett Jackman and Jake Cuddemi. Head coach Tom Milewski is also entering his second season at the helm, so players should be even more comfortable in his system.
Like every year, Division I is stacked, so this is really tough to call. Overall though, I believe West has all the pieces to return to the big game, the question is whether or not they will be able to finish the job.
Prediction: Division I Super Bowl appearance Cranston East
The Bolts are one of the youngest groups in the division this fall, and could possibly use multiple freshman starters to fill the void left by graduated seniors.
The Bolts will boast one of the top offensive lines in the state with Omar Reyes, Coty Lietar, Colin McGuinness and company, but are still searching for offensive playmakers and firepower.
Although East certainly has question marks and is likely a year or two away from being a championship contender once again, the Bolts have a top-notch coaching staff that has been there and done that, and simply have one of the toughest rosters in the state as well. Prediction: Early playoff exit Johnston
The Panthers are coming off a down year, going winless in 2018. Hopes are high though, as the Panthers believe that last year’s tough run was due to inexperience considering the large number of freshman and sophomores.
Key playmakers will be Joe Acciardo Jr., Ryan Schino and Tom Zednik, along with a handful of others that are looking to progress.
I believe that inexperience played a role last year, for sure, but the Panthers still have a ways to go before they can call themselves contenders. Prediction: Miss playoffs (but approach a .500 record)