The calendar reads that it’s late November, yet it feels like only yesterday when R.I. high school teams came together for the first official day of practice. Back then, everyone was on equal footing and envisioning a season that culminated with a title.
As summer skies were replaced by the sight of leaves changing colors, the time-honored process of separating the wheat from the chaff took place. Contenders resided in one silo while everyone else took refuge in a spot where the promise of better days emerged as the rallying cry.
The season is designed to be a marathon, a test in patience and perseverance. But in many respects, the week-in, week-out grind of coaches and players alike remaining on task and on point for the upcoming opponent resembles a sprint. One day, it’s time to go play the Injury Fund tune-up. Next thing you know, the traditional Thanksgiving rivalry contest is on the docket.
Now, the jerseys have been collected and the footballs tucked away in the closet for safe keeping. Another season has been placed in the record-keeping annals. It was a campaign that saw five teams walk away with championship hardware.
In the state championship game, Bishop Hendricken reclaimed the top prize with a 42-6 win over archrival La Salle Academy. For the Hawks, the leave-no-stone unturned triumph was the last step in a mission that began 12 months earlier when the Rams staged a 22-21 victory that ended Hendricken’s run of seven straight state titles. Hendricken lost only one game en route to capturing the crown – that defeat coming at the hands of an out-of-state team.
There is one Ocean State-based unit that would have welcomed the chance to face Hendricken to determine who truly was the best … the Skippers of North Kingstown.
North Kingstown, a newcomer to Division I, picked up where it left off. The Skippers ended the 2017 season as Division II champs. Once again, NK reigned supreme with a 20-14 win over Cranston West in the D-I Super Bowl. Not too many teams can lay claim to winning back-to-back titles while competing in different divisions, a feat that guarantees a seat at a pretty special table. Officially, the Skippers are afforded the privilege of pull up a chair.
Back in September, Hendricken had its hands full against North Kingstown before eventually pulling off a 21-12 triumph. A rematch for all the marbles would have added a new layer to the never-ending saga of public schools vs. private schools. Such a game wasn’t in the cards this year. Perhaps down the road, R.I. football fans will be treated to a game that settles the score once and for all.
The Division II Super Bowl went to Woonsocket after the Villa Novans posted an easier-than-expected 37-13 win over East Greenwich. After going 2-9 in each of the past three seasons, Woonsocket returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2010.
The bowl performance was particularly satisfying for Woonsocket senior Emmanuel Gomes. The running back/linebacker unexpectedly lost his mother Rena Fleury, who tragically died after collapsing while watching the Novans compete in an Injury Fund contest that took place in late August. In the Super Bowl win, Gomes racked up 261 all-purpose yards.
Central Falls overcame its own brush with adversity to win the Division III Super Bowl. The Warriors’ nail-biting 14-10 win over Pilgrim was a most deserving capper for a program that for the past two seasons has been forced to play every single game on the road. That’s due to contaminated soil at Macomber Stadium, the Warriors’ home field.
Through everything, the self-proclaimed “Road Warriors” stood tall, making the Super Bowl accomplishment taste even sweeter.
The Division IV Super Bowl saw Tiverton rally from a 22-point deficit in the second quarter to knock off the North Smithfield/Mount St. Charles co-op team, 43-29. Tiverton quarterback Matt Gacioch tossed four touchdowns as the Tigers outscored their opponents 14-0 in the final quarter.
For the first time in many a moon, the R.I. football season ended with the Thanksgiving contests. Several coaches came out in support of this new wrinkle in the schedule, believing that staging the Super Bowls the weekend before the holiday tilt is good for the game.
Eventually, the glow of winning it all will fade. Some schools will stage offseason workouts before Christmas break while others will wait until January. Next season may seem like eons away, but as those involved with the sport will gladly tell you, there’s no time like the present to lay the foundation and get a headstart on next season.