I covered a pair of boys soccer games last week and each of them went to penalty kicks. It was a lot of fun and each game had me at the edge of my seat, there is nothing like a shootout in the playoffs … one of the most exciting things you can see.
Which leads me to my first take this week, which is that it is time to scrap the overtime period in high school soccer and just go straight to a shootout format.
Right now, the format is that two tied teams play two, five-minute overtime periods. In the regular season, the match will be called a draw after the periods, but in the playoffs, they then turn to the penalty kicks.
Honestly, I can’t recall the last time I covered a game that was decided in overtime. It seems like it almost always results in a draw or penalty kicks. Cut to the chase, eliminate draws, and have teams go straight to the shootout.
The two five-minute overtimes is arguably the most boring overtime format that we have. Teams usually play pretty tight because they don’t want to open themselves up for mistakes. In the regular season, teams almost seem to play for the tie to get the point, and in the playoffs, seem to be more comfortable in a shootout format then the typical gameplay.
OK, so a downside would be that the league would have to change the standings. Right now, a win is two points, a tie is one point, and a loss is zero points. A change in format would cause the league to have to switch to a win-loss formula with a set of tiebreakers such as head to head play, division wins, etc.
That would be a microscopic price to pay, though, in my opinion. In this new scenario, there would no longer be ties and soccer would all of a sudden have perhaps the best overtime system in place. It’s a no-brainer in my opinion, but those in charge know more than I do and seem to have no interest in making the change.
Right now, teams are playing an almost meaningless 10 extra minutes. Let’s make this happen, shall we?
Speaking of soccer, we had another one of our teams crowned champion as the Toll Gate girls got the job done for the second time in three seasons when they beat Westerly last Saturday.
Perhaps the biggest story on the day came prior to kickoff as the Titans’ bus was side swiped in traffic on its way to the game.
No one was hurt and the game went on almost on time. Many teams would be understandably rattled in that situation, but Toll Gate wasn’t, and went on to roll to the win.
In the four years that I have been in Rhode Island, this could be the most improbable champion that we have had. I have spoken on this quite a bit the past few weeks, but Toll Gate overcame so many obstacles this year. I am mostly referring to the team losing its top two scorers and its top defender from last year to injury in the preseason. It seemed like a doomed season from the start.
The Titans overcame those struggles though and separated themselves as the clear best team in Division III. It’s interesting to think what this team would have been with those three players still in the mix … would they have been unbeaten and steamroll everyone, or could their absence have allowed the team to tap into other areas of strength that would have not be realized otherwise? It’s interesting.
The Toll Gate boys fell in penalty kicks to Scituate in the championship game while Bishop Hendricken lost in penalty kicks in the semis. Those two clubs had similar stories in that each had down years in 2021 but rebounded nicely this fall to go on runs.
The difference, though, is that the Hawks will be graduating quite a bit while the Titans will be retaining most players, including top sorer Aiden Preuit. The Titans should be right back in the championship mix next fall while the Hawks will need to rebuild.
The Hendricken football team used a second half explosion to roll to a 34-13 win over Central in the Division I Semifinals last Friday night. Once again, it will be a Hendricken-La Salle state championship this coming Sunday.
Until a Rhode Island team beats Hendricken, I have to go with the Hawks. Sure, La Salle was one chip shot field goal away from beating the Hawks this season, but still, I am picking Hendricken with confidence.
Oscar Weah and Ronjai Francis have been stellar running the ball behind the always-sturdy line. The Hendricken defense is deep and talented. Then of course, the experience and intangibles are there, as always.
Give me the Hawks.
The Cranston West football team fell to Portsmouth 20-7 in the Division II Semifinals last Friday night. I was actually surprised to see the game go on as the rain and wind were pretty rough at times.
Overall, it made the game a defensive struggle. Each offense was limited, only being able to run the ball. Unfortunately for West, the Patriots ran the ball a little bit better. The Falcons also fell victim to poor field position, as back to back punts were boomeranged by the wind. It was just a tough way to see West’s season end.
The Falcons were a blast to watch this year and Marcus Chung emerged as one of the state’s best players. West has a nice chunk of juniors, so should be able to compete next fall without much of a rebuild.