NP returns to D-IV

NP returns to D-IV

Sophomore tailback Jevon Melendez had a strong season last year for the North Providence High football team, which won just one game in Division III play. Thanks to the RIIL’s offseason realignment, the Cougars will return to the Division IV ranks this year for the first time since 2015. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
After winning just one D-III game last year, football team looks to rebuild in latest realignment

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Glenn Williams hasn’t seen his students at North Providence High since the COVID-19 pandemic closed his school’s doors in mid-March, but the veteran head football coach and athletic director has heard from some of the juniors and sophomores that promise to play key roles on this fall’s football team.

“They’re reaching out and asking me, ‘What can we do? What can we do?’” Williams said. “They’re saying things like, ‘Here’s what I’m doing. Do you have any drills for me?’ They’re looking for something to keep them going, and that’s good to see.”

With the high school football season hopefully starting on time in a few months, Williams took a few minutes to talk about the upcoming season, and most of the conversation centered around the RIIL’s offseason realignment for the 2020 season, which will separate the state’s 43 teams into five divisions and drop the Cougars from Division III to IV.

The last time the Cougars played in D-IV was the 2015 season, when they produced a 6-2 record that was their last winning season. The following year, the division took a two-year hiatus, and NP joined a two-subdivision Division III that grew from nine to 14 teams. The Cougars went 3-4 in league play in 2016 and ’18, but last season, they compiled a 1-6 mark that was their worst record since 2004.

The move to Division IV comes at a good time for the Cougars, who suffered some big losses to graduation, most notably at quarterback, fullback, and on their offensive line. But they will look to rebuild the team, and “we have some core kids coming back,” noted Williams.

“I think that’s the great part about realignment,” he said. “It gives schools an opportunity to rebuild their programs. Look at Tolman and Pilgrim, who were in our division last season. They rebuilt and they got bigger and now they’re in Division II. This will give us an opportunity to rebuild, and I foresee us being back in D-III again down the line.

Joining the Cougars in the move from D-III to D-IV are Narragansett and Thanksgiving rival Smithfield. Big things are expected in the division from Ponaganset and Toll Gate, which both went 5-2 and reached the D-IV semifinals last season, and the EWG/Prout School, second-year Davies, and Scituate are also back.

“I think Division IV is going to be competitive,” Williams noted. “There are some strong teams in there. There’s Narragansett and Ponaganset; Exeter/West Greenwich is coming on – they had a pretty decent season last year – and Toll Gate also had a good year. Hope is rebuilding and they have a new coach, and Smithfield also has a new coach and Glenn (Castigilia) is pretty good.”

“It’s a one-year alignment, so we’ll see what happens,” the head coach added. “Hopefully, we’ll have success.”

Last year’s D-IV champion, the North Smithfield/Mount Saint Charles co-op team, and D-IV finalist, Tiverton, are in D-III and joined by returning Central Falls and Chariho; Johnston, Classical, and Coventry, which played in D-II last season; and the Juanita Sanchez/Providence Country Day/Wheeler co-op team, which played an independent schedule.

As for the rest of the divisions, the offseason’s realignment saw defending state champion Bishop Hendricken, La Salle Academy, Cranston West, and Portsmouth joining forces to form a Division I-Power circuit, and 10 teams, including two-time D-II champion Woonsocket, making up a regular D-I.

The Villa Novans will join Central, Cranston East, East Providence, and South Kingstown in Division I-A, and Burrillville, Cranston West, Cumberland, East Greenwich, and Shea will play in Division I-B. Burrillville and East Greenwich also played in D-II last season.

In Division II-A, the six occupants are Middletown, Moses Brown, Mount Hope, Mount Pleasant, Tolman, and West Warwick, and Division II-B features Barrington, Lincoln, Rogers, St. Raphael, Westerly, and last year’s D-III champion, Pilgrim. Barrington, Moses Brown, and SRA are down from D-I.