SPORTS

Breaking down the boys side

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Last week our three publications revealed our Girls Teams of the Year as well as our Girls Team Coaches of the Year. I devoted my column toward breaking the selections down and giving my own personal insight, and I will be doing the same this week as we reveal the boys side.

Starting in Warwick, we decided to go with Bishop Hendricken football for the team and Hendricken’s Jim Doyle for coach.

As for the football team, it is hard to choose against a group that won two state championships in the same calendar year. Of course, it is Hendricken, but even for the Hawks, this was a tough and impressive feat.

After seeing the 2020 fall season get bumped to the spring’s third season, the Hawks never really missed a beat and were as dominant as ever. The team went undefeated and would pull off a comeback win at states to beat La Salle.

Then, on short notice and with a tremendously difficult schedule, the Hawks would reach the big game again in the fall and top the Rams who were considered the favorite.

Between COVID, schedule changes, some uncharacteristic adversity and blemishes, the Hawks stayed dialed in and would get the job done twice.

I’ll admit, I am far more impressed with the fall title than the spring. The spring was a total crapshoot for every team and the Hawks’ perennial stability allowed it to do its thing.

This fall though, it felt like the football gods were trying to give Hendricken a battle. The Hawks faced two out-of-state powerhouses, the typical Division I lineup, then went against the Rams who, for the first time in years, actually were the better team on paper.

Hendricken looked ordinary against the out-of-state foes, almost lost at home to Central, and was not as dominant even in the big wins. La Salle on the other hand was having arguably its best season ever.

Hendricken’s poise took over at states as it edged La Salle in an epic shootout. Once again, the Hawks were simply the better team, even if it was the less talented one this time around.

Hendricken will be back in 2022 as it always is, and unfortunately for the rest of the state, it will be hard to give them a test like La Salle gave them in the fall.

Another team that stood out to me was the Hendricken cross country team as well as Pilgrim baseball. Pilgrim baseball reached the semis in the state’s top division after pulling off an upset. By spring’s end, the Pats were maybe the scariest team with its two-headed pitching monster of Jared Reminder and Kenny Rix. Shout out to those guys.

For coach, this one was quite simple. Jim Doyle led the Hawks to three state championships across three sports. I know, I know, two of the sports parallel each other and its a private school. Private school or not, you can't deny the consistency and dominance of these three programs over the past few years, and especially 2021.

Doyle is not only the best coach in our coverage area, but you can make an argument that he is the best high school coach in the state altogether, and one of the best in the country.

In Cranston, we went with the boys hockey co-op for team and Matt Brannon for coach. Although it would be nice to spread the love, these two are hand in hand and enjoyed one of the best seasons in the program’s history.

The Falcons came so close in both 2019 and 2020 but ultimately fell short in the playoffs. It would have been easy for the club to be discouraged, lose confidence. It didn’t though, and although it lost a large core of seniors from the season prior, the new guys would catch on fast and complete an undefeated season and wrap up its first title since 2014.

Between the large core of seniors that moved on and the pandemic, it was an uphill battle for the Falcons. But they never wavered and were clearly the best boys team in Cranston in 2021.

As for Brannon, it was his fifth year coaching the team, and this also now gives him some clout in coaching circles. His team is officially a perennial playoff organization and it proved that it is capable of getting the job done.

Not that people were lining up to throw stones at the team, but no one really had it on their radar prior to last season. The Falcons are once again looking like a playoff team with championship potential, so it is safe to say the formula works.

Another team that stood out was West baseball. The Falcons made the playoffs in the state’s toughest division and pulled off the year’s biggest upset when it eliminated Hendricken on the road in the first round.

Although the team fell the next game, it deserves a ton of credit for its run and playoff outing against the Hawks.

We then selected the Johnston football team and its coach Joe Acciardo, who also coaches baseball.

Johnston really defied the odds in the spring. The team missed out on the playoffs the two years prior and just could not pull it all together. With guys like Tom Zednik, Hunter Remington, Joey Acciardo, Ryan Schino, it was hard to believe that that group couldn’t make the postseason.

However, I’m assuming it was a mix of experience and coaching, but the team finally realized its potential and reached the Super Bowl. It then turned around and made the semis in the fall.

Johnston football is back on the map thanks to this group of standouts, and a few of those key guys will be back next year as well.

As for Acciardo, football in my opinion is the toughest sport to coach. He coached this team during the hardest time to ever do it and turned things around fast. He also kept the baseball team on track after missing the entire 2020 season.

Three teams, three playoff appearances. Hard to go against Acciardo.

The other team and coach in mind was volleyball with coach Greta Lalli. The Panthers finished 6-1 in the spring to earn the top seed in the division, but came up short in the playoffs. Overall, it was an unexpected run and the Panthers are now a team to look out for in a few months.

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