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Townie Pride and Tough Love: Coach Jay Monteiro’s Weapons of Choice

East Providence Coach Jay Monteiro and his Team

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.

Jay Monteiro glanced at the construction outside of East Providence High School. The Townies head football coach points to an area currently covered in dirt, indicating where the new athletic complex will be.

“It’s going to be incredible” Monteiro said. “The best in the state. I am confident of that.”

In June, officials broke ground for East Providence’s new $189.5 million state-of-the art high school, which will replace the crumbling building that was built 65 years ago. It will mark RI’s first new high school in 20 years. The school is slated to be completed in two years, the athletic complex in three.

The football stadium will be the centerpiece of the multi-purpose athletic complex. The LED lit stadium will seat more than 1750 spectators. The complex will also include an eight lane synthetic track, which will enable EP to host a track and field meet for the first time in two decades.

“The stadium will certainly help our football, soccer and lacrosse programs. It will also be used by our community’s youth teams,” said East Providence High Athletic Director and State Representative Gregg Amore. “We are installing state of the art artificial turf, an oversized scoreboard and a full press box. With the construction of the new high school, we anticipate an increase in student enrollment of between 100-200 students and that, along with the new facility should enhance all of our athletic programs. I look at it as an opportunity to give our student athletes the same facilities that the private and wealthier zip code schools have. It’s really not about competition with those schools as much as it is about investing in our community’s student athletes just as the new science labs and media center etc. demonstrate an investment in our students as a whole.”

In just a few years, the football team will no longer have to practice across the bridge on a small, make-shift field at the East Providence Senior Center. No longer will the players have to board a bus to play their home games across town at Pierce Field, which is also in need of a facelift. The new facility will allow the football team to compete on its home campus in a state-of-the-art stadium.

Planned East Providence High School Stadium Rendering

While Monteiro is thrilled with the plans for the new complex and what it will mean all of East Providence’s athletic programs, he pauses for a second and reflects. For a second, he’s nostalgic.

“I’m a Pierce guy. I love it there,” laughed. Monteiro.

Pierce Memorial Stadium is filled with tradition. A stone’s throw away from East Providence High, Pierce opened on Nov. 30, 1930. The unbeaten Townies beat La Salle that Thanksgiving Day in front 8,500 spectators. The traditional Thanksgiving matchup between the Townies and Rams is still going strong nearly 90 years later. Over the years, the intense rivalry has escalated.

For Monteiro, Pierce Field is his second home – has been for the better part of 35 years. He played football for East Providence High back in the early 1980s. He went on to the University of Rhode Island and became the first person in the large Monteiro family to graduate from a four year college. His love for East Providence and the desire to give back to his community remained strong and, after graduating from URI, he came back to Pierce Field and served as an assistant coach (1989-2003). Eager to grow, learn and raise his level as a coach, he went on to serve as assistant at Bryant University while working full time as a teacher in East Providence. He later was a member of the staff at Dean Jr. College before returning to the place he calls home – East Providence.

He took over for veteran Head Coach Sandy Gorham in 2014, bringing with him the same passion and love for East Providence he had when he was a player and student at the school. His motto from day one as a head coach – CAD – Character. Academics. Discipline. It’s what he instills in his players each and every day.

He has a strong passion for not just the game of football, but for East Providence High School overall. He has taught health and phys ed in East Providence for 30 years, the last 15 or so at the high school. His wife, who also graduated from EP, is a math coach in town.

“Townie Pride is in my blood,” he said.

Monterio, who was named the RI Coach of theYear in 2016, walks in the gym and looks up at the banners indicating championships won by various East Providence athletic teams. He points to the football banner.

“Sixteen state championships in football,” said the 53 year-old Monteiro. “If I am not mistaken, that may be the most football state championships won by a team in the state.”

On the bottom of the banner is 2006 – marking the last time the Townies won the state title.

Monteiro hopes that will change and a new year will be added. He knows it will take some time, but he is hopeful the new state-of-the-art school will attract students and keep them home.

“The new athletic facility is going to be awesome. It is going to be the number one high school and athletic facility in the state. I truly believe that,” he said.

In the meantime, this year’s Townie team is off to a solid start. With a 34-0 victory over Cranston East on Friday, the Townies improved to 3-2 in Division 1. Monteiro’s team is led by senior tri-captains – Justin Pena (QB), Kaleb Almeida ( LB) and Ricky Maciel (DE, TE, MLB). Pena is a three-year starter and member of the National Honor Society. Almeida is a returning All-Stater and Maciel is a two-year starter.

“We want to make the playoffs,” said Monteiro. “We have a big game this week against Shea. They are a very well coached by Dino Campopiano. He loves the kids.”

So does Monteiro.

“I tell the kids at the end of the day I want to win football games, but what’s more important to me is that you are productive to society, that you need to go to college or learn a trade and give back to the community…that you show Townie Pride,” said Monteiro.

His message has gotten through to his players.

“Townie Pride is being proud of being a member of the East Providence community. Being a Townie means everything to me because I’m a 4th generation Townie and hopefully I will pass it down to my children,” said Almeida.

“Townie Pride isn’t just about supporting your team or representing your school. It’s not about just being there for the losses or the wins,” said Maciel. “Townie Pride is about you and your community coming together and acting like a family. Townie Pride is about the connection with your peers and the amount of growth you can create as a team, no matter the problem. Like we on the football team say ‘It’s not just a team, it’s a brotherhood.'”

That was evident in August when Monteiro lost his father, his hero, his role model.

“He worked hard. He was tough. He taught me that no one was going to outwork me,” said Monteiro. “I didn’t see him much when I was a kid because he worked so hard. When I saw his boots on the stairs I knew he was home….sleeping.”

Monteiro’s dad died during pre-season practice…a time typically filled with excitement and hope. The hit hurt more than any hit Monteiro had ever suffered on the field.

“I was there by my dad’s side when he took his last breath…just as he was always there for me, by my side,” said Monterio.

And now his team was by Monteiro’s side – during the most difficult time in his life.

“The team rallied around me. They showed up at my dad’s wake together, in their uniforms. I teared up. I was overwhelmed when they came in together,” said Monteiro. “Having their support was incredible.”

Two months later – just last week – EP senior Jovani Lima’s 47 year-old mom, Anna, lost her battle with Cancer.

“I got a bus for us and we went to the wake together as a team. The funeral home was the same one where we had my father’s services – just a few months earlier. It was hard,” said Monteiro. “I told Jovani we were here for him…whatever he needed…just as he had done for me. He told me he wanted to play Friday night. I said okay..whatever he wanted. He asked me if he could put a sticker on his helmet.. I think the sticker had his mom’s initials. Of course he can. We will all put them on our helmets if he wants. Whatever helps him through this.

“That’s what it’s all about ..supporting one another. We are a family. I am so tough on these guys…but it’s because I love them,” said Monteiro. “This is our community. That’s what Townie Pride is all about.”

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.