My Pitch

Public schools catching up

Posted

I can always gauge how interesting my work week is based on the number of items that I consider touching on in my weekly column.

Apparently last week’s football was very intriguing, considering the fact that I have far too many thoughts to share and would need much more space to dive into each one … so, here are a few things that stood out to me last week:

First off, the gap between private and public-school football has really narrowed in the year and a half that I have been in Rhode Island.

Last season, the Bishop Hendricken Hawks and La Salle Rams entered the season in a league of their own and for good reason. Each club cruised through the regular season, seldom tested, and would meet in the state championship where the Hawks came out victorious.

Behind the scenes however, a handful of public-school teams emerged, and it seemed like we were in the early stages of the pendulum swinging back in favor of some other clubs.

Now, North Kingstown and Cranston West are in the mix and have each showed promise against some of these top teams. West played the Hawks tough until the fourth quarter of their matchup, and the Skippers pushed Hendricken to the brink this past weekend and came within arms reach of winning the shootout.

It will be interesting to see these two teams, along with other public-school teams, develop moving forward. The Hawks and Rams are set to do battle this week, but we’ll see how things sort out the rest of the way. I am always for having as many quality teams as possible … as much fun as it is to see a team reign, and to see others trying to play catchup and be “the ones” to knock them off, it’s just a better weekly product to get as many top-notch clubs as we can, and I feel like we are on our way to getting that.

Next topic is the point after attempt at the high school level.

Rarely do we see kickers get the glory in victory, but this past weekend Hendricken kicker Cole Peterson and Skippers kicker Max Rome received much of the buzz, as the two combined to go 9-for-9 on the point after, which for high school is very impressive.

Of course, it is much tougher to find a reliable kicker at the high school level than the college or professional level. When a team is lucky enough to have one like these two clubs, it is such a great luxury that sometimes goes overlooked … especially when they can convert from an actual distance and pick up three points as well.

I covered the Pilgrim-Ponaganset game on Friday, and both teams tried to go for the 2-point play. Not sure if that relates to their kicking situation, but on the flip side, if you have a really solid scheme for the point after, then why not routinely go for two?

Two-point conversions are tough … the team truly needs all 11 players to execute, not to mention the fact that throwing the ball is tough with such limited space to work. Kicking on the other hand, as long as the line holds up, the snap is good, and the kicker does his job, then it’s no problem. Easier said than done, of course.

Pilgrim really dug deep into its playbook on Friday when it went up against the tough Ponaganset defense. However, the Pats executed for the most part, including on 2-point tries, and showed how effective a good, diverse game plan can be, as well as playing strong situational football.

Lastly, I am really beginning to feel that Warwick could see two of its teams go undefeated in Hendricken and Pilgrim.

For the Hawks, this possibility is nothing unfamiliar. We all know the teams that Hendricken has fielded over the past decade-plus, as well as the expectations that are set each season. Going undefeated is always on the table and now that the Hawks have successfully cleared North Kingstown and West … all that’s really left is La Salle this week. The Rams are a nice challenge, but I feel like the Hawks will get it done on home soil and cruise the rest of the way.

Then there is Pilgrim.

The Pats have been among the most dominant teams to this point. They crushed Classical, then Smithfield, and then wrapped up a decisive win over Ponaganset last week. In my opinion, Pilgrim is no longer just a rising team … the Pats are peaking and are here to stay, and I am beginning to come to realization that perfection may also be on the table.

Pilgrim still has to face Chariho and Narragansett. Both are strong clubs, both have been in dog fights already. I’m sure being tested in that way will help those two teams, but I am starting to lean toward Pilgrim in both games. The Pats have been complete, versatile, and more than anything, dominant.

Neither team has reached the halfway point of their schedules yet, so I’ll admit that this is a bit premature. But what I will say, is that both of the squads are for real, and perfection should no longer be considered just a pipe dream.

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John Stark

Interesting analysis, Alex. But I'm not sure I agree that the "gap" between Catholic and public schools has narrowed much, at least broadly speaking. Yes, it would appear that both NK and West, but especially NK have improved significantly. But at public schools, these things tend to go in cycles. Witness Portsmouth. Once a top dog having played in six D1 super bowls from 1994 thru 2010. But none since. EP has also knocked on the door, but not in thirteen years. Cranston East was the last Big Hope with it's collection of tremendous talent in 2013, but lost to Hendricken in the championship game, and appears to have fallen on hard times. So after NK and West, who are the teams that have really impressed you and 'narrowed' the gap? Two years ago Hendricken beat West 27-14. Two weeks ago: 27-7. Not exactly a gap narrower. The Hawks beat a very good NK team by 9 points last year, and a better NK team by 8 points last week. We do agree on one point: It's good to have as many quality teams as possible. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, October 2