Shea at East Providence: What You Need to Know

East Providence preparing for Shea – Photo Credit: Brendan McGair

Catch the Shea @ East Providence football game on YurView LIVE this Saturday October 19 at 11:00am on Cox Channel 4 and streaming on YurView.com.

Every two years, the R.I. Interscholastic League takes out a double-edged sword when the time comes to realign the divisions.

Caught in the crosshairs are non-Division I programs that have achieved and sustained success over a designated period of time. Add in a dash of the school’s enrollment and presto, what appears is a surefire recipe for relocation to a higher division.

From 2014-17, the Shea High football program compiled a resume that any interscholastic coach would take in a heartbeat. Based in Division II, the Raiders compiled an amazing 24-4 record, collected two league titles and one Super Bowl title (in 2016) and finished in the runner-up spot after appearing in a second championship game.

Based on all that good fortune, it shouldn’t register as a shock to learn that Shea was promoted to the state’s top division prior to the 2018 season. Longtime head coach Dino Campopiano and his staff have embraced the challenge of competing against well-established D-I teams. The bump to a higher division also represented cause to reflect on how far the Raiders have come in the near-quarter century that Campopiano has been at the helm at Shea.

“Twenty-four years ago when we took this program over, it was in Division IV. Now we’re up here competing against the very best,” said Campopiano. “I think it’s great for our kids, it’s great for the school, and great for the community.”

Shea preparing for East Providence – Photo Credit: Brendan McGair

After qualifying for the playoffs last year, the Raiders this season are off to a 3-1 start in league play. The next challenge that awaits Shea is a Saturday 11 a.m. kickoff against East Providence at Pierce Stadium.

For the longest time, the Townies represented the gold standard in R.I. high school football. A game at EP was a must-see event with big crowds and an elaborate halftime show. There have been plenty of state championships along the way – 15 total, which in RIIL football history only trails the 16 titles won by La Salle Academy.

Current EP head coach Jay Monteiro was the program’s defensive coordinator during the true heyday of the Townies’ title run. East Providence hasn’t won a D-I Super Bowl since 2006, yet Monteiro hopes that a return to the glory days is around the bend once construction for a new high school is complete in 2021.

“At one time, we had close to 2,000 kids in the school,” Monteiro noted. “With the new school we’re getting, hopefully kids will want to stay at home.”

This year’s East Providence squad is off to a 2-2 start in league play. Their results to date represent a clear-cut indicator of how little separation exists within the I-A side of Division I. EP defeated St. Raphael, which lost to Shea, which defeated Cumberland, which lost to the Townies.

“Our side in Division I is very tough. Every game is a battle,” said Monteiro.

Football coaches always preach to their players that the next game represents the biggest one of the season. Taking a bigger-picture look in which postseason ramifications are front and center, Saturday’s winner could be on the fast-track to hosting a D-I quarterfinal-round contest.

Who should fans (and Yurview viewers) keep an eye on? Ask and you shall receive. Below is a checklist to help you get game ready. Let’s begin with the away team.

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When Shea Passes:

A new starting quarterback was recently broken in as senior Trentin Curry took the baton from senior Erickson Bans, who elected to concentrate on his primary sport – basketball – after starting the season as the Raiders’ No. 1 signal caller.

“He’s handling the offense very well and his passing is getting better and better,” noted Campopiano when asked about Curry. “For Trentin, the bottom line is getting more reps.”

Curry’s top targets include senior Davontay Vaz, senior Brian Melo, and junior Kenny Silva.

Shea Junior Quarterback Trentin Curry with Head Coach Dino Campopiano – Photo Credit: Brendan McGair

When Shea Runs:

Plenty of adjectives have been used over the past few seasons to describe Jaylen Smith, a senior who is blessed with the potential to reach the end zone every time he touches the ball. Last week against Barrington, Smith scored a rushing touchdown from 97 yards out.

“He’s been a starter for us over the past three years. He’s a special running back and a special kid. A talent like that comes around once in a while,” said Campopiano. “When he breaks off a long run, very few people can catch him. He’s got great vision and great hands, but he’s also very strong. Definitely a complete back.”

Smith draws most of the attention, yet the Raiders are also comfortable when the ball is handed off to senior DeJuan Hayes, senior Malik Jackson, and junior Enrique Duarte.

When Shea is on Defense:

On average, the Raiders have allowed exactly 12 points per game through four league contests. Seniors Tyree McLain and Seydina Gueye anchor the defensive line, while the key linebackers are seniors Immanuel Lima and Igdaliah Makor along with Jackson. The secondary is in good hands with Hayes at safety and Smith at one of the cornerback spots.

“Our defense has kept us in games all year,” said Campopiano. “They’ve limited good teams to very few points. (Defensive coordinator Damon Scarduzio) does a great job with the game-planning in terms of mixing things up.”

When Shea is on Special Teams:

In all aspects related to kicking the football, the Raiders are rock-solid with junior Sergio Gonzalez. A former soccer player, Gonzalez is a first-year varsity football contributor and features a powerful right foot that has proven to have been a major asset.

“We’re very fortunate to have him,” said Campopiano.

Returning the ball on kickoffs and punts will be Smith and Hayes.

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When East Providence Passes:

The art of the RPO (run-pass-option) has long been the hallmark of the Townies’ offense. The quarterback must be a dual threat and senior Justin Pena is no exception. Pena earned a few starting nods at QB as a sophomore.

“He’s a smart kid, sometimes too smart because he wants to coach everyone,” said Monteiro.

The main guys that Pena will be throwing to include a freshman for whom Monteiro believes the sky is truly the limit. The potential that Jahad Davis owns was never more apparent than on the 36-yard touchdown pass he caught during EP’s Sept. 27 game against Cumberland.

“He’s still learning, but he’s probably our best athlete,” said Monteiro.

Senior Alex Rodriguez ranks up there as one of the dependable WRs for EP, as does senior Will Ferro and junior Santi Nocella. Senior Kaleb Almeida is more known as a blocking tight end, yet the Townies won’t hesitate to look in his direction.

When East Providence Runs:

Senior Juan Diaz is coming off a four-touchdown performance in last week’s 39-0 win over Cranston East.

“I call Juan our little bus,” said Monteiro, referencing the powerful nature of his primary tailback. “He’s strong and tough to bring down. He sees the field really well.”

Pena and Davis will be asked to run with the football, as will junior Elijah Owens.

“We have a great rotation where each player runs something a little bit better than someone else,” said Monteiro. “It’s something that helps keep us fresh.”

East Providence High Townies – Photo Credit: Brendan McGair

When East Providence is on Defense:

The interior line is anchored by senior Jaz Crowle, junior Diandre Monteiro, sophomore Isaiah Andino, and sophomore Donavin Ivy. The two primary ends – senior Carew Gomes and senior Richard Maciel – are athletic and quick to the ball, per Monteiro.

Almeida is a returning first-team all-state linebacker. He’ll be flanked by senior Adam Martins and junior Isaiah Smith, about whom his head coach had some nice things to say.

“He’s a kid you want to coach. He listens to you,” said Monteiro about Smith.

Pena is the general of the secondary. He lines up at free safety. The cornerbacks are new to varsity – sophomore Denzy Suazo and junior Elijah Owens. Also rotated in are senior Will Ferro and Nocella.

When East Providence is on Special Teams:

Senior Davonte Symonds is the top option on field goals and point-after tries. On punts and kickoffs, the Townies are in good hands regardless of whether Davis or Diaz is called upon. Pena will be back there on punt returns. In terms of kickoffs, junior Elijah Owens and sophomore Colby Babbitt will line up deep.

Catch the Shea @ East Providence football game on YurView LIVE this Saturday October 19 at 11:00am on Cox Channel 4 and streaming on YurView.com.