Call it the calm before the storm – a weekend when all Rhode Island high school football teams are idle prior to their annual clashes on Thanksgiving Day.
La Salle enjoys the distinction of being the only team that’s undefeated in league play with a 7-0 record in Division I. As a result, the Rams have clinched the division title and the No. 1 seed in the Division I Tournament which begins on Nov. 29.
The Rams put themselves in that position by beating Cranston East, 35-14, with junior Josh Morris running for touchdowns of 64, 74, 63 and 38 yards.
Hendricken (6-2) clinched second place by beating Barrington, 21-13, as Ryan Brannigan threw a pair of touchdown passes to Lou Falcone and also ran for a third touchdown.
What other two teams will fill out the field is more complicated.
Currently, East Providence and South Kingstown are tied for third place with 4-3 records.
The Townies play arch-rival La Salle on Thanksgiving while the Rebels play winless North Kingstown.
Should EP and SK each win on Thanksgiving and finish 5-3, the Rebels would earn third place by virtue of their 40-12 victory over the Townies (i.e. the first tiebreaker is record in head-to-head competition).
But if the Townies lose and finish 4-4 and the Rebels win, EP would be tied for fourth with Portsmouth which plays a non-league game on Thanksgiving. However, EP defeated the Patriots 26-22 which would earn them fourth place and the last seed in the tournament.
Since Division II is split into two divisions, tournament play began last weekend with Cumberland, Central, Chariho and Westerly prevailing in the quarterfinals.
Cumberland beat Tolman, 13-9, as Ryan Gaumond scored on a one-yard run with 1:21 left on the clock.
Central whipped West Warwick, 27-12, with Mike Washington rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Chariho outlasted Mount Hope, 28-15, with quarterback Jansen Williamson rushing for two touchdowns and heaving a 70-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Cahoon.
Westerly trumped St. Raphael, 36-22, as Spencer Reed scored on runs of one yard and three yards.
As a result, Cumberland will play at Chariho and Central will play at Westerly in the Nov. 29 semifinals.
Rogers (6-1) has clinched the Division III title and the No. 1 seed in that tournament. The Vikings play a non-league game on Thanksgiving against winless North Kingstown.
Narragansett (5-2) must beat Tiverton on Thanksgiving to clinch second place while Classical (5-3) and Middletown (5-3) are tied for second. But because the Islanders edged the Purple, 27-26, they’ve earned the No. 2 seed for the tournament.
First-place Mount Pleasant has completed its Division IV schedule with a 6-2 record while North Smithfield and Smithfield are tied for second with 5-2 records. But if North Smithfield beats Scituate, the Northmen also would finish 6-2 – and would earn the No. 1 seed by virtue of their 14-12 win over the Kilties.
LA SALLE BACK ON TOP
The last time La Salle Academy won the Division I boys’ state soccer championship was 2005 when the Rams captured their sixth title.
La Salle annexed title number seven by bolting out to a 3-0 lead and then staving off Shea, 3-2.
Goals by fullbacks Anthony Micheletti and Alex Laprade plus midfielder Daniel Apajee accounted for the Rams’ scoring.
Then, two days after celebrating the title, La Salle was fined $100 and veteran coach Mario Pereira was suspended for the first game of the 2012 season by the R.I.
Interscholastic League’s Principals Committee on Athletics for derogatory comments about officiating in an Oct. 22 game that appeared in a local newspaper.
For the second straight year, Smithfield beat East Greenwich in the Division II finals – this time by a 3-1 score on two goals by tournament MVP Mark Marino and one by Tim Cabral.
The Sentinels finished with a 17-0-2 record.
Exeter/West Greenwich began the Division III Tournament with the most proficient offense in the state (92 goals in 19 total games). But Classical clamped down on that offense and edged the Scarlet Knights, 2-1, for their second consecutive title.
The play of Classical sweeperback Saul Salavera was crucial to the Purple’s ability to shut down EWG’s offense.
LA SALLE GIRLS FOLLOW SUIT
After clinching a seventh straight Division I-North title, La Salle’s girls captured their ninth Division I state title by beating Smithfield, 6-2.
Tournament MVP Ariel Etheridge registered a hat trick for the Rams, who entered the weekend ranked 15th in the nation.
Exeter/West Greenwich’s girls capped a perfect season by beating Lincoln, 3-1, for the Division II title – the second straight year they’ve caged the Lions in the finals.
Tourney MVP Alyssa Clements led the Scarlet Knights with two goals as her team finished 21-0-0.
EWG wasn’t the only team to emerge from tournament play undefeated.
Narragansett emulated EWG by beating Middletown, 4-1, in the Division III finals which resulted in a 19-0-0 record.
Forward Chelsea Sahagian, a mere freshman, earned MVP honors by scoring two goals.
HAWKS, MARSELLA RUN TO GLORY
The Hendricken boys’ cross-country team and Chariho’s Mike Marsella, had much reason to celebrate over the last two weekends.
Coach Jim Doyle’s Hawks annexed their fourth straight state championship by amassing 47 points, eight less than second-place Chariho. Tyler Henseler led the Hawks by placing fifth.
Marsella, meanwhile, won the individual championship as he finished 12 seconds ahead of teammate Jake Kilcoyne.
Then, a week later, Hendricken won the New England Championships for the second time in three years and Marsella captured the individual title.
Hendricken chalked up 116 points, 56 points ahead of second-place Fairfield Prep, as Colin Tierney led the way with a 20th-place finish.
Marsella, meanwhile, edged Fairfield Prep’s Connor Rog by a mere 1.54 seconds to become the third Rhode Island male to win the regional title in the last four years.
On the girls’ side, Barrington won its second consecutive state title with 59 points, eight ahead of second-place La Salle.
Abigail Livingston, Megan Vener-Crist and Fiona Paine finished in the top seven to pace the Eagles.
La Salle’s Molly Keating made history as she became the first female to win three straight individual championships. Keating, a senior, finished three minutes ahead of South Kingstown’s Paige Ethier.
Keating placed second to key a second-place team finish by the Rams in the New England Championships.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.