Another year, another realignment to examine in Rhode Island high school football.
This year’s realignment, in my opinion, is an upgrade from the previous layout. This fall there will be a four-team Division I, with Hendricken, La Salle, North Kingstown and Central filling out the list. Then, there will be a 14-team Division II with Cranston East and West included. Division III will have 16 teams including Pilgrim, Toll Gate and Johnston, followed by a nine-team Division IV.
In the previous design, there was a Power Four division, followed by Divisions I, II, III and IV. It’s largely the same, but the naming was different as well as the number of teams in each division.
I’ve heard some people complain about the new Division I, saying that it is unfair to many of the teams in Division II that should not be considered Division II teams, if that makes sense.
Although I can see their point, I feel like a Power Four division is a little silly in that we all know what it means … it’s the best four teams in the state.
What I like about this new format is that it separates the teams that are above the rest annually, of course I am referring to Hendricken and La Salle, while also giving a couple of other top public programs a chance to pull off the upset. I’m torn between whether or not the league should have expanded Division I to maybe six or eight teams, though.
Central and North Kingstown have knocked on the door and each have nearly caught up to the private schools at times in the past couple of seasons. There is also Portsmouth, who was in the state championship not too long ago, and South Kingstown, which went on a run and beat Central in the regular season in 2021.
If I had to say, I guess I am satisfied with four teams. Although I just made the case for Portsmouth and South Kingstown, they realistically won’t have much of a chance against Hendricken and La Salle. That is what it all boils down to … which teams have a chance to compete with those two programs.
As for the ripple effect in the other divisions, I love the competition that will take place in Divisions II and III. We don’t have any teams in Division IV, so I will be watching that from the periphery.
I am excited to see how Cranston East and West fare in Division II. It’s perfect for those two teams in that they are rebuilding and on the upswing. They will still be tested against some of the state’s best competition while having a chance to compete against teams that may be a step behind, which will allow them to build confidence and toy around with some things that they would not be able to do otherwise. It’s perfect.
Division III wound up being very interesting last season with Pilgrim, Narragansett, Chariho and Johnston making runs. I’m looking forward to seeing another dogfight this season as well.
Overall, I like how organized this new format is and I love the matchups that we will get to see this coming fall. Sure, it’s not like things are significantly different from a year ago, but the tweaks are just enough to spice things up.
The other topic regarding the realignment that I want to touch on, and have touched on numerous times, is whether or not there should be a private school championship.
Most people are for this considering how Hendricken and La Salle have dominated the state over the past decade. I for one am not for this.
The reason is simple … there are only two teams to choose from.
If we were to do a private school division and/or championship, then what is the point of having the Hawks and Rams play other teams? By giving these two programs their own championship, it’s admitting that they are unbeatable. So, if they are automatic losses for other teams, why schedule them to face one another?
If there were say, four or five private schools battling every year for supremacy, then yes, I would be all for that. But with just two? Nah, keep them in the top division and throw in a couple of the best public schools. The league has done that the past few seasons and I think that it is as good as it gets, although it’s not perfect.
I will end this column with a Patriots take. I have been fighting this day for as long as I could, but after last week’s preseason debacle against the Raiders, I can’t anymore. The Patriots are no longer a good team.
Sure, in 2020 with Cam Newton and it being the first season post Tom Brady, a rough transition was expected. Last season, the team took a step forward and seemed to be nearly back.
Between the coaching changes, the offensive line struggles, the failed attempt at installing a new offensive scheme, Mac Jones struggling, the defense being maybe just a tick above average, this team is no longer a true threat in the AFC.
Was I expecting a Super Bowl this year? No, but going into training camp, I was excited to see this team take another step forward, especially considering it added a couple of new faces including Devante Parker and draft picks.
I have been disappointed in not only the lack of progress, but the big step back that it has taken to this point. It’s only preseason, but still, things have been looking shaky at best.
I will give an official prediction prior to kickoff, but I am struggling to see how this team can make the playoffs. Vegas has their win over/under at 8.5, and I am beginning to think the under is the safer bet, which would make the postseason virtually impossible.
We’ll see how the next few weeks go, but I hate saying that I am expecting a down year for the Pats.
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