High school football season begins Friday

High school football season begins Friday

Senior wide receiver/defensive backs Josh Melo, #1, and Cam Pedro are two of the veteran players to watch on this year’s Cumberland High football team, which is seeking its fifth straight trip to the Division I playoffs this fall. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Cumberland, Lincoln, Davies hope to improve on spring seasons; BVP, Central Falls join forces on co-op team

LINCOLN – High school football fans from Cumberland and Lincoln who witnessed this past spring’s unusual two-month season are going to see another first this fall season.

For the first time, there will be four teams coming out of this area, each playing in a different division. While Cumberland (Division I), Lincoln (D-II), and 3rd-year Davies (D-IV) are back, Blackstone Valley Prep will be joining forces with neighboring Central Falls and forming a co-op team that plays in D-III.

The season gets underway on Friday, with the Patriots kicking off the RIIL schedule by taking on North Providence at 6 p.m. in their first-ever home game at Pawtucket’s Vets Park, and the Lions doing likewise by visiting D-III finalist Johnston in a 6 p.m. non-league affair at the Panthers’ Polisena Stadium.

At 7 p.m., Cumberland will head to Massachusetts for a non-league test against Division VI title contender Rockland, and the Central Falls/BVP co-op squad is scheduled to make its debut by visiting Mount Hope in Bristol.

Here’s a look at the four teams:

D-I: Cumberland

Only one public school team has been to the D-I playoffs in each of the last four years, Cumberland, and this season, the Clippers, who have been to the semifinals in the last two seasons, hope to make a fifth straight trip to the postseason that ends up in a Super Bowl.

Last season, the Clippers ended up with a 2-2 record and faced eventual D-I champion Central in the semis, only to suffer a close 14-6 loss that came down to the wire – and Cumberland did all this despite battling the injury bug.

“It was a very different team in February than it was when we finished up in the playoffs,” said head coach Josh Lima. “We had so many injuries that we were always mixing and matching. We had to move Ryan Larson from slot receiver to running back to quarterback, and we didn’t have the same offensive line for more than one game all season.”

“The good thing was that by the end of the season, we had a lot of young guys with a ton of reps, which is good for us this season,” Lima added. The Clippers are led by their captains: junior lineman Patrick Conserve, who was a First-Team All-State selection this past spring, senior offensive lineman/linebacker Dylan Powers, senior wide receiver Jaden Pimentel, and senior wide receiver/defensive back Jack Proctor. Also back from last season’s squad are junior tailback Joel Baker, who had some big games in the backfield down the stretch, and senior wide receiver/defensive backs Cam Pedro and Josh Melo. That trio, as well as junior senior lineman Thad Cincieri, junior linebacker Miguel Garcia, and sophomore lineman Shane Raposo, were also part of a hard-nosed defense that pitched two shutouts and allowed an average of 12.2 points per game.

At quarterback, the Clippers are carrying three on their roster, senior Brady Ray, who is expected to be the starter, junior Taye Meerbott, and freshman Evan Spencer.

“Even though we graduated 14 kids, we have a lot of players returning who were heavy contributors,” said Lima. “And we’ll have a couple of freshmen and a bunch of sophomores over the next couple of weeks who will get on the field in big-time roles.”

After their non-league game against Rockland, the Clippers will dive into their D-I schedule, “and there a lot of very good football teams on our side (of the division),” added Lima. “Obviously, we have to go through La Salle and North Kingstown, and we have East Greenwich, Cranston West, and Burrillville.”

“It’s definitely a tough division, which is why we’ve always said that we want to stay in Division I,” continued Lima. “You get to play the better teams, and it’s fun, it’s competitive every week, and it’s something we look forward to.”

D-II: Lincoln

The Lions’ spring season only consisted of games in their first two weeks, both losses to two of the D-II’s top teams, Moses Brown and Mount Pleasant. COVID-19 issues resulted in the cancellation of the final three. Nevertheless, Lincoln is back in full force, with several young players on its roster who received valuable experience from those two games.

“We’re happy to be back,” said head coach Sean Cavanaugh, who is carrying a larger-than-usual roster of 58 players. “It really feels like football again. They got a taste (last spring) and they all came back, and we got great numbers from our freshman class coming in.”

“The preseason’s been great,” Cavanaugh added. “Things are really positive around here. High energy. We just don’t have the experience of being part of a football program, but that will come in time.”

Two seniors who bring plenty of experience to the tables are linemen Will Bowler and running back/defensive back Issac Alves, and four other 12th-graders to watch are linemen Jonathan Wetmore and Sebastian Pacheco, wide receiver/defensive backs Will Brown, Damian Terrizzi, and Ethan Sexton, offensive lineman/linebacker Zachary Lecours, and a newcomer, tight end/linebacker Jacob Murray.

The junior class features center/defensive end Caden Watters, running back/defensive back Christian Petrone, and lineman Ian Lanctot, and the sophomore class, which is a huge one, is led by returning quarterback Sean Clifford, who is receiving some competition from freshman John Nicoll. Also in that 10th-grade group are running back/defensive back Ryan Plante, offensive lineman/linebacker Mitch Murtha, lineman Ravi Kapadia and Issa Ghazal, and wide receiver/defensive back Joe Conti.

“We’re working hard and these kids really love it,” added Cavanaugh. “We’re in a really strong Division II again and we have some tough games to open up (the season), but we have the big numbers, and we’re going to have to fight and scrap, and that’s part of the fun of it.”

D-III: Central Falls/BVP

After taking the spring season off, Central Falls returns to action in a different atmosphere. Not only will the Warriors host their first games in a number of years at Macomber Stadium – and on a brand new turf surface – but they are also fielding a team with 43 players that includes a dozen BVP players.

It’s an exciting time for students and faculty at the Macondray Street school, who will only have to travel less than a mile to attend home games, and the addition of football comes at a time when the school is welcoming a girls’ volleyball team that will compete in the RIIL’s Division IV ranks.

In an email to The Valley Breeze, veteran head coach Jeff Lapierre described BVP’s newcomers as a “great group of kids” who are “eager to play, and they are working hard. The first thing we said when we were all together was, ‘There is no BVP and no CFHS – we are Football Warriors, that’s it.’”

Four BVP players who could crack the starting lineup are senior wide receiver Xavier Lara, senior defensive end Michael Mendez, junior tight end/defensive end Urias Brooks, and freshman lineman Dylan Frechette.

BVP’s other eight players are senior running back/linebacker Robinson Berria, junior lineman Robert Blue, junior quarterback/linebacker Giovanni Perez, junior wide receiver/defensive back Jovan Finley, sophomore defensive back Matthew Silva, sophomore wide receiver/linebacker Noah Perez, and freshman defensive backs Jared Baptista and Javier Ortiz.

The Warriors’ first home game on their new carpet is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. against D-III newcomer Narragansett, which won the D-IV championship this past spring.

D-IV: Davies

The Patriots made great strides in their second season as an RIIL team. One of a handful of teams in the state to play all five of their regular-season games without a hitch to their schedule, the Patriots picked up the program’s first victory on April 4 by blanking Hope, 16-0. But this fall, they want to to take next step in their progression and accomplish a lot more than a win here or there.

“We’re excited about the opportunity that the fall season presents to our team,” added head coach Henry Cabral. “Last year, our goal was to get a win and see what happens, but this year, the goal is to make the playoffs. That’s a rock-solid goal for these kids, especially for our senior class, which has been with me for two years now. But they’re committed and they want to make the playoffs.”

Ponaganset, which only graduated four players from a team that reached the D-IV Super Bowl last season, is a huge favorite to win the division. Narragansett and Toll Gate made the jump from D-IV to D-III, and in the process, swapped places with the Juanita Sanchez/Providence Country Day co-op team and Tiverton.

“I think there’s going to be some parity in our division,” added Cabral, who added Pawtucket’s Joe Clark and Charlie Brown to his coaching staff. “We’ll see what happens.”

Leading the Patriots’ returnees is one of the division’s top players, Matt Patenaude, who is a slot receiver and linebacker that also helped the Patriots put points on the board as a running back and quarterback.

“He comes to practice every day, he works hard, he leads by example, and he looks good,” said Cabral. “He wants to play in college somewhere next year, and I think that’s a realistic goal for him.”

Junior quarterback Antonio Cabral, who blossomed this past spring as a first-year signal-caller for the Patriots, is also back behind center and “he’s bigger, stronger, and has a little bit more confidence now as a junior,” added the head coach. “Between him and Matt, we’re going to go through them.”

Sophomore running back/linebacker Danny Rose, who scored touchdowns in Davies’ final two games, also returns, as does three seniors who have been with the team since its first day: center Gianni Laredo, fullback/linebacker Anthony Silva, tight end Nick Maston, and lineman Jasai Boykin. Senior wide receiver and newcomer David Laquale and junior linebacker/offensive guard David Tousignant are two more players to watch.

Cumberland resident and Davies senior Matt Patenaude, shown shaking off a Toll Gate defensive back during a game last season, is the top player back for the 3rd-year Patriots, who are vying for a Division IV playoff berth this fall.