This past weekend, a group of about 30 or so people held a celebration to honor retired coach Francis “Mickey” McGuire.
McGuire, 94, spent decades coaching local youth sports including football, basketball and baseball and made countless friendships along the way. The celebration, which was held at the Greenwood Inn, was organized by a group of his former players and included generations of people that were touched directly and indirectly by him.
These are some of my favorite stories. This one came across my desk last minute, but I was happy I swung by to meet Coach McGuire and get a glimpse into the impact that he made over the years.
We always talk about how much a coach can impact an athlete's life, especially at the youth level. It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to actually see it firsthand years after the fact. We are so used to seeing current coaches building those bonds and working with kids and understanding how the coach will be remembered. In this case though, we got to see the impact that was already made and how appreciative those former players were to have had such a great coach.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of athletics in a young person’s life. Sports are so vital for the development of children, and oftentimes, the coaches are the reason why. Again, we are all told this all the time, but McGuire is living proof and reinforces the importance of having a strong youth athletics scene available in the community.
The actual sport is just the half of it, not even. At that level, it’s all about the social aspect and the lessons you learn. The actual sports are just the vehicle.
Congratulations, Coach McGuire. It was clearly a job well done many times over. And to parents out there, always be open to enrolling your children into local sports leagues. The benefits are immeasurable. The high school football playoffs are starting this week and a few of our teams made their respective tournaments.
Here are my thoughts on our teams that will be competing, as well as some wrap up thoughts of the teams that finished last weekend. Hendricken
The Hawks will be taking on North Kingstown this Friday night in the state semifinal. This should be an excellent game between two teams that always bring the best out of one another.
When I did my midseason assessments of our teams, I said that Hendricken was a tough team to evaluate due to its schedule. It had multiple games against out-of-state powerhouses as well a few schedule issues that caused postponements. It was really hard to get a read on the Hawks.
Since then, Hendricken edged Central in a fourth-quarter thriller, cruised past South Kingstown, and beat Portsmouth, 14-7.
Overall, the Hawks have to once again be considered the favorite to win the state title, but their dominance is not quite as pronounced as it has been in recent years. Sure, Central and Portsmouth are top-five teams in the state, but they each gave Hendricken quite the battle. On the flip side, the Hawks took their best shot and kept moving forward which shows that their maturity and mental toughness are on point as the playoffs begin.
I believe the Hawks will win the state title, but in my opinion, this is the most vulnerable they have been in my four years of being in Rhode Island. Pilgrim
The Pats are back to where they were in 2019 when they won the Super Bowl. Offensively, this team has hit a point that it didn’t even during the championship run. Meanwhile, it’s defense is improving each week and the special teams unit is the best in Division III.
At this point, it is pretty clear that Division III is a two-team race between Pilgrim and Narragansett. That’s not to say teams like Johnston and Chariho can’t be potential spoilers, but the Pats and Mariners have separated themselves.
I’m expecting a Pilgrim-Narragansett rematch in the Division III Super Bowl and I am expecting a nailbiter when the time comes. The Mariners got the better of their meeting earlier this season, but I still believe that that game will be too close to call.
Pilgrim will be taking on cross-town rival Toll Gate in the opening round. Which leads me to the Titans. Toll Gate
The Titans have struggled mightily this season after being bumped up to Division III. Toll Gate only has one win to this point and has suffered back-to-back blowout losses to end the regular season.
The reason Toll Gate qualified for the playoffs is because every team in the division did. I don’t expect the Titans to be able to get by Pilgrim, it is a pretty big mismatch.
I think the question is how competitive can Toll Gate make this game and for how long can it keep it close? The Titans got a tough draw as a rebuilding team that was forced to move up. Let’s see how they look against their rival. Johnston
The Panthers had a solid regular season and will be taking on Middletown in the opening round after squeaking by with a 27-26 this past week. I find it fascinating that these two teams are running it back one week later.
Johnston has an experienced group with playmakers on each side of the ball. The Panthers are hungry to return to the Super Bowl after falling to Coventry on the big stage in the spring.
My question with Johnston is whether or not it can be at its best when it counts. The Panthers are definitely a factor in this race, but they have to be their 100 percent best to compete. They hung in there until the final three minutes with Pilgrim and picked up a couple more tough wins along the way, including against Middletown.
Johnston absolutely has a chance at a title. However, being at its 99 percent best won’t cut it … the margin for error will be zero. Cranston West
As I said back in my midseason thoughts, the Falcons were simply one of those teams whose record didn’t match the talent on the roster.
West finished with just one win this fall, but hung in there with Burrillville and North Kingstown … no easy feat.
Down the stretch, West hit a tough slate of games and endured a big losing streak. I didn’t watch each and every game, but based on the box scores and whatnot, it seems like the team may have lost a little bit of steam down the stretch.
The Falcons went toe to toe with NK and nearly won against the Broncos. From there, the team went 0-4 in a few lopsided defeats. Strength of schedule was a factor, as they took on La Salle, Central and Cumberland, but I have to imagine that coming up so close against those tough teams and just missing was emotionally draining.
We’ll see how the team regroups next fall. The program has a solid foundation and found a few gems on the roster this year to build around. Cranston East
Although the rebuilding Bolts went winless this fall, it’s fair to say that the team grew and made some progress.
The Bolts fell to Central 34-14, which is actually a respectable score considering how big of a year the Knights have had. They also fell to a tough East Providence team by one score and had a chance to top East Greenwich. Obviously the team still has some growing to do, but close games like those will pay dividends as they continue to mature.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here