Last Friday was the start of the high school football season. Teams played in their Injury Fund exhibitions, so although the results did not count toward the standings, it was the first time that teams were able to compete against other squads in live action.
I won’t talk about being back to normal much more. I have been saying it in my work the past few weeks and although I am enjoying returning to the norm, I understand that it is getting repetitive, I get it.
But let me just say one more time. Man, did I miss the fall football season.
On Friday evening I covered the Pilgrim football game against East Greenwich. It was an outstanding game that really reinforced my love for high school football.
East Greenwich was coming off of a very successful spring while Pilgrim was winless at that time. Sure, the game was an exhibition and many of the starters were pulled in the second half, but this was a game that East Greenwich, on paper at least, should have won.
The Avengers jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead and held onto the advantage heading into halftime. Pilgrim would return the second-half kickoff for a touchdown and its second offensive unit would lead a drive late in the fourth quarter to eventually erase the deficit and pull off the comeback win.
Again, this game did not count, but it was one of those moments that could have been a tone setter for this team the rest of the way. Regardless of who was on the field and what was at stake, Pilgrim was the underdog heading into the matchup and showed toughness in every sense of the word to pull off the upset.
It was a great game to cover and a fun story to be a part of. Many of the kids that were in the center of the comeback were bench guys, some may barely see the field the rest of the season. So for them to get their moment in the sun and have that experience was outstanding.
Speaking of experience, what an incredible environment it was as well.
Back in the spring, stands were only partially full, there were restrictions, people were still not comfortable being in crowded areas.
Now, everyone is back, and for the first time since 2019, it felt like high school football and the community was truly back. It was as much fun as I’ve had covering a game in months.
Whenever I would check in to Twitter, it was clear that most of the games around the state were rocking as well. Cranston West was blowing up all over social media for the crowd it had at its game against Coventry. With the team playing on its brand new field for the first fall season, I feel like packed stands will be the norm which will be blast for the Falcons and the Cranston community.
There’s something about fall football that is right. I said it last week, but although the spring season scratched the itch and provided players with a chance to compete, nothing beats football in fall, the way it is supposed to be.
It is great to be back out there and I am looking forward to hopefully seeing packed stands for the rest of the way and beyond.
The NFL season if kicking off this week so I wanted to go on record with a few of my predictions.
Last season, I predicted that the Buccaneers would go 12-4 and win the Super Bowl. They went on to go 11-5 and win the Super Bowl, so I like to pat myself on the back for that more often than I should.
The problem though? I only put my Patriots prediction on paper, so I feel cheap taking a victory lap. Please believe me when I say that I am being honest regarding my Bucs prediction.
So, to start, I believe Tampa Bay and Tom Brady will go 15-2 and repeat as champs. Honestly, I feel that 17-0 is on the table as Tampa has the easiest strength of schedule, but predicting a perfect season is a little too rich for my blood. Regardless, 15-2, Super Bowl champs.
As for the Patriots, I expect them to take a step forward this season.
Considering the mass amount of money the team spent to fill holes as well as having an upgrade at quarterback in Mac Jones, I can’t wrap my head around a scenario in which they are not at the very least a game or two better than 2020.
The offense should be able to operate the way that Josh McDaniels wants it to, and the defense is deep and versatile. Stephon Gilmore missing the first six games is going to hurt, and I am sure that Jones will make his rookie mistakes under center.
Overall, though, between the upgrades they have made on each side of the ball and the fact that they do not have a very daunting schedule, either, I do believe that New Englanders are going to have a much more enjoyable football season this time around.
I believe the Pats will go 11-6. There are a couple of games, like the one against Tampa, where I feel they have virtually no chance of winning. There are a few more close ones that I could see going either way.
I believe if this team stays healthy and can overcome a potentially slow start, then it will have a chance to be a dark horse in the AFC down the stretch and into the playoffs. Dark horse as in possible Super Bowl contenders? No, but a team that may be able to make the playoffs and win a game.
The future is bright for the Pats if you ask me. I do believe in Jones, at least enough that I believe that he can be a reliable NFL quarterback in time. They will not be winning six Super Bowls in 20 years again, but I do think the team will be a competitive organization for while, and this year will be its comeback to relevance after a year away.
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