Warwick football has been on fire throughout the 2019 fall.
Pilgrim, who just beat North Providence 50-0 this past weekend, remains undefeated and the favorite to win the Division III crown.
The Bishop Hendricken Hawks took home a 43-7 win over visiting Cranston East on Friday as well, and they also remain undefeated and atop the Division I standings.
However, the Toll Gate Titans have flown under the radar the past couple of weeks and all of a sudden look like a contender in Division IV.
Hopes were high for Toll Gate entering the 2019 season. The Titans qualified for back-to-back postseason berths and returned much of the same core that is now comprised of primarily upperclassmen. Everything seemed to be lining up for the Titans to have a big season.
However, things started rough as the Titans were steamrolled by North Smithfield and Narragansett by a combined score of 87-20 to open league play.
Coming off a 0-2 start and looking sub par in each contest, it seemed as though the season was already on the brink of a free fall … at least as a spectator.
But since then, the Titans have won three straight and have looked dominant in all three phases while doing so.
Before we get ahead of ourselves here, two of the wins came against teams that the Titans should have beaten. Toll Gate cruised to a 38-6 win over Hope this past Friday. Hope is a solid team that also entered the game with two wins, but Toll Gate is deeper and more experienced.
The Titans also beat up on Scituate the previous week, but the Spartans have been bottom dwellers this season as well. Toll Gate won a tough matchup against Ponaganset the week before which was very impressive, as the Chieftains are considered to be arguably the best group in Division IV.
Although we must take the quality of opponent into consideration, make no mistake about it, this team has looked great for three weeks now and seems to have its stride.
Kenny Morel and Ethan Durand have had some monster games over the stretch and all of a sudden have proven to be a force in the division out of the backfield. In last week’s game against Hope, quarterback Greyson Pasquina carved up the Blue Wave defense while wide receiver Christian Rapoza enjoyed a breakout game.
The defense also stayed hot, giving up 28 points over the past three contests. Hope’s quarterback is a fantastic dual-threat, and Ponaganset boats a hard-nosed offense that wears opponents down. This Titans’ defense is for real.
Looking at the final three weeks, the Titans have a favorable schedule and may have a chance to secure a top-2 seed for the playoffs. North Smithfield is the only undefeated team left in Division IV, so the Northmen have the top spot all but secured, but the rest is still very much fluid.
The Titans have a tough test this week against Tiverton, who is 2-2 entering the contest. After that though, Toll Gate wraps up the regular season against Davies and Exeter West Greenwich, who have combined for only one victory this season.
If Toll Gate can find a way to win this week, then the second seed should be all but wrapped up. To see all three Warwick teams compete for and be considered championship favorites is impressive, and says something about the feeder system that this city has established over the past decade.
One idea that I have heard is the possibility of merging Pilgrim and Toll Gate and going up to Division I.
When I first heard the idea, I didn’t hate it, and I still don’t hate it. A Toll Gate-Pilgrim co-op would certainly generate positive results, and I think it would immediately be somewhere toward the top of the standings.
However, if these two clubs continue to build and have this success, even in the lower levels, then it would be hard to see things changed. I’m sure the two clubs would have something to say about it as well.
Imagine how big a Bishop Hendricken-Warwick co-op rivalry would be, though? That would also be a great Thanksgiving rivalry game as well … possibly the biggest in the state.
Back to my original point though. This Toll Gate team has certainly turned a corner and has salvaged its season.
This week’s matchup against Tiverton will be very telling in my opinion. Win or lose, I believe Toll Gate is on the right track, but a big win against a tough Tigers team would definitely propel the Titans from a playoff team to a championship contender.
I have said numerous times in my life that I believe there is nothing as powerful in high school sports as momentum … and the Titans have plenty of it at the moment. Let’s see how it translates.
One last item … props to the Pilgrim football team and community for its fabulous pink out game last Friday. I was not present, but have seen plenty of photos and video. Sports have always been a great way to bring a community together for a greater cause, and Friday was another example of that. That is something we need more of nowadays.