Chieftains look to keep momentum going

Chieftains look to keep momentum going

Ponaganset senior quarterback Zach Silvaggio drops back to pass during the Chieftains’ 20-play scrimmage against Lincoln last Saturday at Ponaganset. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
After posting 7-3 mark, reaching D-IV semis last year, Ponaganset seeks another strong season

NORTH SCITUATE – Prior to last season, the decade hadn’t been too kind to the Ponaganset High football team.

Prior to last season, the Chieftains hadn’t put together a winning season since 2009, and from 2014-17, the program hit a very rough patch and totaled just four league victories.

But under new head coach Jim Cook, the program’s fortunes took a turn for the better last season. Not only did the Chieftains finish the Division IV’s regular season in second place with a 6-1 record, but they also reached the semifinals of the playoffs, only to lose to eventual D-IV champion Tiverton.

Last year was truly an exciting one for longtime Ponaganset football fans, and with several key starters back from that team, some folks are hoping that the Chieftains can return to the playoffs and win one or two more games come November.

But Cook knows there’s a long way to go and a lot of work to do over these next eight weeks, especially with a lot of underclassmen making up his current roster.

“We only have five seniors and maybe four juniors,” he said last Saturday after the Chieftains hosted a four-team scrimmage that also welcomed Ellis Tech of Danielson, Conn., North Providence, and Lincoln to town. “The rest (of the players) are sophomores and freshmen, but the younger guys are starting to play together, which is good.”

“Every single week we go out, we just want to be competitive and we want to get better,” Cook added. “We have freshmen starting on our varsity team again this season, just like we did last year. We know we’re going to make mistakes, so we just have to keep getting better every week.”

Getting better each week was exactly what the Chieftains did last season. On their way to a 7-3 overall record, Ponaganset took this part of the state by storm by winning its first six games, four via shutouts, and the first two coming against Smithfield in its non-league opener and Scituate in its D-IV opener.

Unfortunately for the Chieftains, in the postseason, “we ran into Tiverton, which is always a good team,” said Cook. “That (loss) was a tough one, but we had a great season. We had good senior leadership and the kids bought in right away, and that’s the whole reason why we did so well. It was all the boys; they did a great job.”

Almost all of the Chieftains’ offense, which averaged 33.6 points per game during the regular season, is back, and it’s led by senior quarterback, Zach Silvaggio, and a huge line that features 280-pound senior tackle John Braddock, 260-pound senior center Chris Hopkins, junior guard Anthony Bottella-Robshaw, and sophomores John Rambone and Christian Plouffe.

Senior Ryan Smith, who was a 240-pound tackle last season, is now the tight end, and he and junior Aaron Parenteau will give Silvaggio two reliable targets down the field.

Among the seniors who graduated this past spring were the Chieftains’ top running back, Jeremy Stone, but sophomore Marcus Carpenter and freshman Nick Baccala will take over in the backfield.

Most of the starters on offense will also be pulling double duty on defense, Cook added.

As they did last season, the Chieftains will kick off their schedule by playing their two neighboring rivals. A week from Friday, they will face Smithfield in a 7 p.m. game at the Sentinels’ Boyle Athletic Complex, and their home and D-IV opener will take place on Friday, Sept. 20, against Scituate.

And fans won’t have to wait long for Homecoming Night. It’s the following Friday against Toll Gate.

But before the Chieftains battle any of those teams, they will venture to Johnston High on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and play in a two-quarter Injury Fund game against the North Smithfield/Mount Saint Charles co-op team, which lost to Tiverton in last year’s Super Bowl.

“We can’t wait to get started,” Cook said. “We’re ready to go.”

Ponaganset senior defensive end John Braddock maneuvers around an Ellis Tech offensive tackle and makes his way to the quarterback during the teams’ scrimmage.
Second-year head coach Jim Cook, left, speaks to his defense during a break in his team’s scrimmage against Lincoln last Saturday.