Division IV teams return to action

Division IV teams return to action

Two-time All-State tailback Marcus Carpenter is one of the top players back for this season’s Ponaganset High football team, which graduated just four players from a squad that was undefeated during the regular season and reached the Division IV Super Bowl. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
High school football season begins Friday night

GLOCESTER – With their Injury Fund games behind them, it’s time to get into the official high school football season, as Division IV finalist Ponaganset, Smithfield, and Scituate gear up for a full D-IV game season.

Here’s a look at the teams:

Ponaganset

The Ponaganset Chieftains finished their “Fall II” season at the top of DIV but came up short against Narragansett in the Super Bowl.

Despite some turnover, the Chieftains will field almost the same exact team, head coach Jim Cook said. Some players who had played previously did not play last season, as they were involved in other sports while other players decided not to come back this season because of the Delta variant. But they graduated just two starters from last season.

“Our numbers are pretty good,” Cook said. “We’re in pretty good shape. We’ve got some freshmen that will see some varsity reps as well.”

They have many returning starters including Chris Brennan, a senior, at quarterback. Marcus Carpenter and Nicholas Baccala return at running back while Christian Plouffe and Josh Souza return at linebackers. Nick Viner is at defensive tackle. All of these returners have started since they were freshmen, Cook said.

Cook also highlighted Tyler Brown and a new starter in Matthias Barros, who has been playing tight end.

All in all, the Chieftains have about 50-55 players on the roster. It was somewhat of a rushed preseason, Cook said, as they did not have time to focus on individual drills but he is happy they are out there and there will be an actual fall football season.

Their first official matchup will be Friday, Sept. 10 against Juanita Sanchez/PCD/Wheeler co-op. Cook said they haven’t played them in a while. They did not participate in the Injury Fund as their game against North Smithfield/Mount Saint Charles co-op was canceled as North Smithfield/Mount was sidetracked with a COVID case.

Cook said he is excited to face all of the teams in DIV but they also haven’t seen Tiverton in a few years as they are back down. With the COVID-shortened season last year, Cook said there could be a dark horse team this season but all in all he just wants a competitive division this year.

Smithfield

The Smithfield Sentinels hired new head coach Glenn Castiglia in April or May of 2020 and with COVID, he wasn’t able to coach an official game until 2021 and that came in the spring.

“I think that worked in my favor,” Castiglia said about the weird timeline. “A, I was able to get familiar with the kids and B, I went through the equipment and found out what we needed.”

He compared coaching last season to coaching a spring football season at the collegiate level. At that level during that time, he said, you implement a new system and get to know each other and that’s what they did last season.

“The spring allowed us to get our system in place and lay the groundwork,” he said.

There has been a lot of turnover in the Smithfield system over the past few years with losing records and different coaches. Castiglia said they graduated 12 seniors last year, most of them being two-way starters. They were able to hold two or three junior varsity games last season so some of the younger players did see time on a field.

With all of the obstacles last season, the Sentinels finished with 40 players on the roster and Castiglia said they have 40 on their roster right now. They have about 10 seniors and 15 juniors but will also have four freshmen.

Castiglia listed some of his returning starters in AJ Hetu, Mike Tartaglia, Ryan Flynn, Trevor Morgan, Dante Pizzo, Hayden Wholey and Dante Fiorio. Like Ponaganset, Smithfield has not named captains yet.

Castiglia, like many of the other football coaches, are excited to play a full football schedule. Last season the Sentinels played four games and three of those games were against teams that reached the playoffs and two of those teams went to the Super Bowl.

“Our schedule last year was the toughest in the division,” Castiglia said. “We actually played better each week and our best game played was against Ponaganset. At the half we were winning 7-0 and with five minutes left it was a one-score game. I remind the kids all the time that we got better every single week and we hope to pick up where we left off for a full DIV schedule.”

Castiglia said that he and his coaching staff preach a strong work ethic and want their kids to not only work toward being successful on the field but also in the classroom.

“I believe that hard work pays off,” he said.

He said he wanted to get as many players in against Juanita Sanchez in the Injury Fund game to get them on film and prepare for their first actual game against Tiverton at home. He added that they are excited to get going.

Scituate

Another high school football team that had a new head coach last season was Scituate in Derek DeSousa. But the similarities end there as the Spartans were badly hit with COVID during the “Fall II” season.

“We had four strikes of COVID,” DeSousa said. “We started the season with 30 kids and with each increment of COVID we lost four kids, then five, then three. We ended up with 18.”

DeSousa’s main objective last season was to re-energize the team and build the numbers while also trying to get past last year when they played just two games and those two teams were in the DIV Super Bowl in Narragansett and Ponaganset.

Right now they are in the mid 20s roster wise and are preaching accountability and being responsible. DeSousa said they changed the program getting new uniforms, new slogans and new equipment.

DeSousa named his five captains in quarterback Daniel Wolf, running back AJ Detri, wide out Josh Buckley, corner back Nathan Hazard and lineman Jake Matos.

“We’re a young team and will start a lot of sophomores and some freshmen,” DeSousa said. “We want to gain experience and get better each week.”

DeSousa also preaches hard work and said he tries to be the example. Another example of a hardworking, hustler is the team’s only female, DeSousa said. He added hustle inspires hustle.

Their goal this season, DeSousa said, is to win one game at a time and get into the playoffs, which he said will be hard for them. He wants to change the losing culture.

“We have some talent even though we are young,” he said.

DeSousa also highlighted his four other coaches in Edward Inscoe, David Valley, Ronaldo Brito and Matthew Gemmel.