Football season is here as teams began practicing last week and are getting set to scrimmage as we near kickoff in a couple short weeks.
The quality of talent across the state is the best it’s been since I began covering sports in Rhode Island and I am thrilled to get going. Here is where our teams stand as we get ready to get back out there. These are not predictions … those will come in two weeks when we enter the first week of the season.
For only the second time in the last decade, the Hawks did not win the state championship as the high-flying La Salle Rams earned the shootout victory last November.
It will be fun to see how the Hawks rebound after the tough loss. Last time they were beat in 2017 they picked up themselves up and would win each year until 2022. Hendricken’s program is consistent and deep, so there is no doubt that they’ll be right back in the mix this year.
Not many people realize this, but the Hawks were young last season. Quarterback Jayden Falcone as well as running backs Oscar Weah and Ronjai Francis are returning. Rushaune Villane will also be returning on defense.
The biggest key for the Hawks this season will be experience. Will last year’s run and loss pay dividends for these returners?
The Falcons had a big bounce back season last year to reestablish themselves among the state’s elite. West reached the Division II semifinals and was right in it until Portsmouth ran away with the win in the second half.
The question heading into this season will be who runs the ball for the Falcons? Marcus Chung, Dimitri LeBlanc and Steve Girouard all graduated which leaves a gaping hole in production. West will need a few young guys to step in and produce ASAP.
Quarterback Kelan Cornell had a breakout year last season and will be back as a junior. His progression this season will be massive, especially when considering the possible growing pains in the first few weeks. If Cornell can sling it, then West will be able to weather the storm early. The defense never concerns me, West is a tough, physical group that is always stingy.
The Bolts are looking to improve on their one-win season in 2022 but will have to establish their lineup after graduating a large chunk of their core.
Keep an eye on running back A’Driahn Foreman, who was one of the team’s most productive rushers last year. As a senior on a rebuilding offense, expect a ton of carries and a big impact on a weekly basis from the back.
Heading into last season, many of us held our breath when watching Pilgrim as the Pats had an eye-opening young roster. It felt like a season that could go in any direction. Luckily, the Pats shook off a slow start and would settle down as the year wore on.
Of all of our teams, I expect Pilgrim to take the biggest step forward this fall. Both of its quarterbacks are back from last year in Carter Clifton and Chace Roberts. Other returners include Jack Coffey, Justyn Murphy, Cole Bigelli, Andrew Vicino, Dylan Roberts and Brandon Wolfendon, just to name a few.
By season’s end, the Pats were playing .500 ball. Now, with so many returners and a motivated squad, don’t be surprised if Pilgrim is back in the championship mix.
The Titans underwent a total makeover last season from the coaching staff to the roster. The team went winless which is not what anyone in the program wanted. However, sometimes it is best to just reset everything and rip it down to the studs, which is exactly what happened.
As much as the Titans would love to get back into the mix, I think a realistic and achievable goal is simply to make progress. Don’t worry about the wins, just worry about what we see on the field.
Receiver Jonathan Almeida had a big game last Thanksgiving and Kason Wirtz will likely take the reins at quarterback after seeing some time as a backup last year. The young kids will have a chance to spread their wings this season.
The Panthers had a disappointing, one-win season last year in league play after graduating a large core that reached the Super Bowl.
Although Johnston is still rebuilding, the Panthers should look closer to a contender than a rebuilding team this fall as quarterback Neari Vasquez returns as well as running back Steven Finegan. Jahaziel Rodriguez will also be back to help the Johnston offense, which should have enough firepower to hang with the best in the division.
The question will be defense. That unit struggled mightily last season and allowed 300 points to the opposition. As nice as it is to have a capable offense, you also need to be able to shut teams down.
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