A great first fall of football

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As many of you already know, this is my first fall covering high school football in Rhode Island, and I must admit that I am loving every minute of it.

Last Friday I covered the Bishop Hendricken-Cranston East matchup on Jordan Ave, and for those of you that know how the game unfolded, it was a reminder that anything can happen in high school sports.

Hendricken has been rolling this season, topping some of the top teams like North Kingstown, La Salle, and now East. However, the Thunderbolts looked great in the matchup and pulled within one score and carried the momentum as well. Hendricken’s experience took over and the Hawks pulled off the win, but it was competitive and East had multiple opportunities to jump ahead.

Although East was not able to pull off the upset, it did prove that it is still very much a playoff-caliber team despite falling to 2-3. It also showed that no team is invincible, and that the Division I group is still very much up for grabs and may be the most interesting race to watch this fall.

Until Hendricken loses to a league opponent, it is safe to say that it is the favorite. Like I said, the Hawks have been rolling and have yet to lose to a Rhode Island foe this fall.

But last Friday has definitely kept things in perspective moving forward.

After Hendricken is North Kingstown, who has been an offensive juggernaut this season. Although Hendricken topped the Skippers in a 21-12 win … it was a close matchup and proved that North Kingstown is right in the mix.

After that there is the defending champion La Salle. Hendricken also beat the Rams handily in the state title game rematch, but you can never count out La Salle, who has been Hendricken’s toughest opponent over the past decade.

Then the Cranston teams. Although East has had an up and down season, it’s hard to sleep on the Bolts. East is always a tough team that produces great athletes, and its near-upset of Hendricken last week proved that the Bolts are still very much a threat. West made the playoffs last year, but the Falcons have truly broken out this year and are riding a four-game winning streak.

The Falcons right now are kind of the wild card in Division I. They are clearly a legitimate team, and have topped some solid clubs such as Moses Brown and Barrington. But until they face an elite group, which they will when they take on La Salle in a couple of weeks, it will be hard to know if they are a playoff team or a championship team. From what I have seen, I think they could very much fall into the latter category.

There is still plenty of time for other teams to emerge too. With two weeks left in the regular season, this is when the races get interesting and the final push begins.

East Providence is definitely an interesting club. The Townies fell in a competitive matchup against North Kingstown, and later recovered by earning wins over East and Shea. Speaking of Shea, the Raiders are also 3-2 and have matchups against Hendricken and North Kingstown coming up. Point being, the Raiders have an opportunity to do some real damage here despite being the underdog in each game.

Other teams to watch out for are Cumberland, who has been making a strong push as of late, as well as Moses Brown, Portsmouth, Barrington. Although those clubs are on the outside looking in, they all are capable of pulling off an upset.

Typically, the top clubs in the state reside in Division I for each sport. Sometimes that is not always a good thing though, and powerhouses run the table and control the Division for years and years.

A lot of the times it turns out to be the opposite though, and fans get to keep up with the best teams and talent and watch them battle each week to make it to the big dance. I’m not quite up to speed on years past, but this Division I football season has been a blast to cover, and is still very much a competition with two weeks remaining.

Will Hendricken continue to surge all the way to a state title and recapture the crown? Will La Salle prove its metal and go back-to-back for the first time since 2000-2001? Will North Kingstown be more than just a dark horse? Will East go on a run and climb back into the title conversation? Will West prove that it is among the elite? Will another team spoil one of these clubs’ runs?

All of these questions will be answered in the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. At the end of the day, no matter who wins, this has been a great high school football season, especially at the Division I level, and should be a wild month coming ahead.

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