Cranston East head football coach Tom Centore couldn’t keep himself from smiling during his team’s practice on Friday when discussing all his different options on the offensive side of the ball.
“The line is going to want to run the football because they’re physical,” Centore said. “(The receivers) are going to want to throw the ball. I’ve got my work cut out for me to figure it out.”
It’s a good problem to have, and East has that problem in abundance. With nearly its entire offensive intact after last season’s breakout campaign, expectations are high and they should be. The ’Bolts look like one of the state’s best.
In its fourth year in Division I, East is built better this season to contend for a state championship than ever before. Last year, the ’Bolts took a giant leap forward, going 6-2 before losing in the semifinals 35-21 to eventual champion Bishop Hendricken.
This fall, East has its sights set on continuing the upward trend.
“I think we’ve always had that ability to win a title,” said senior All-State receiver Marven Beauvais. “It’s just the mentality and the way the team to come together, sometimes it wouldn’t work. I think now, we’re coming together better.”
Beauvais is one of the many talented players back in the fold for East, which lost some standouts to graduation – most notably First-Team All-Stater E.J. Isom – but won’t have to re-tool nearly as much as most of the teams in the division.
While a team like Hendricken graduated four First-Team All-Staters, and La Salle – the defending state runner-up – lost Gatorade Player of the Year Anthony Francis, star running back Josh Morris and star receivers TyNeil Cooper and Mitch DaSilva, East retained much of its core.
Besides Beauvais, the ’Bolts have All-Division quarterback Alex Corvese back, as well as star-in-the-making running back/wide receiver Marquem Monroe, a First-Team All-State selection at defensive back as a sophomore last year. Four-fifths of the offensive line returns, as does speedy senior receiver Jimmy Saab.
“I would think, with all the returning guys we have, they expect to win,” Centore said. “I don’t think they want to think any differently than that. They want to win the Super Bowl in December. I think that’s their goal – be a playoff team, get to the Super Bowl and get better as the year goes on.”
It all starts with Corvese, who started for the first time last year as a junior and struggled in the early going before finding his groove in the middle of the season and leading East to one of the state’s best passing attacks.
He feels more comfortable this season, and Centore is excited for him to take the next step.
Then there’s Monroe, who, as a junior is already one of the best players in Rhode Island.
“He’s versatile,” Centore said. “He’s going to play the receiver, the slot, going to play some running back. He’s going to be all over the place because he’s that good.”
Across the line, seniors Eric Almonte, Dale Rodriguez and Josh Santos are penciled in after starting last year, and senior Austin Stadelbauer should also get time after playing some last year. Junior Ryan Lackey played for the freshman state championship team two years ago, went to Connecticut for his sophomore year and has transferred back for his junior season. He’ll contribute right away.
Others on the line include juniors Nick Sawaia and Blake Doyon, as well as seniors Kenny Irizarry and Steve Alvarez.
“We’ve got great linemen,” Centore said. “Physically, it’s the biggest and strongest offensive line we’ve had since ’05, by far, when we won that Division II Super Bowl. We have more of them though. We have 10 of them.”
Outside the numbers at receiver, Beauvais will lead the group in his third year starting on offense and has put on 10 pounds of muscle since emerging as one of the state’s best pass catchers last year. Saab is another weapon, and Monroe will also see time in the slot and out wide. Juniors Melvin Paniagua and Amir Pettiway and senior Leudis Delacruz will get some looks as well.
At running back, seniors Mario Negron and Joe Coste will step in, and sophomores Andre Garcia, John Anderson and Bruce Soscia are also fighting for time. Monroe will spend plenty of time back there as well.
At tight end, junior Michael Rodriguez, Justin Silva and Vannak Rourn are competing.
Defensively, everything isn’t quite as cohesive, but there is plenty to be excited about.
Players like Michael Raspberry, Michael Castillo and Chris Correia are gone from the defensive line, and most of the linebacking corps are gone. Yet, along the line, regulars like Greg Scott, Santos and Dale Rodriguez are back. Filling the void at end are junior Eddie McKeon and Max Bloom, as well as Michael Rodriguez.
“We do have some guys that can play on the defensive end, its just going to be a little bit newer,” Centore said.
Linebacker will be brand new, with sophomore Anderson stepping in after seeing a little bit of time as a freshman. He’ll be joined by seniors Tyler Bast and Soscia, while Tyler’s brother Jay – a freshman – could crack the varsity lineup.
In the secondary, it looks like last year. Junior Darrio Carter – who is also a back-up quarterback, along with junior Logan McConaghy – started last year and will start again, as will Saab and Monroe. Beauvais became a big part of the secondary late last year too, and he’ll see time there once again.
Sophomore David Todd could also earn some time.
“A lot of (the defense) played, they just didn’t start,” Centore said.
Beauvais will handle the kick-off duties, and McConaghy will take extra points and field goals. Soscia and McConaghy both could punt.
“We’re excited about what we’ve got,” Centore said. “There’s definitely a commitment from the guys.”
The question is whether that commitment will lead to not just another standout regular season, but postseason success as well.
It won’t be easy. Even with significant turnover, Hendricken, the three-time defending champion, returns plenty of players and has many more ready to step in, while La Salle reloads better than any team in the state. Portsmouth and Barrington figure to be strong as well.
But East thinks it can stand up to anyone, and it might just be right. It hasn’t won a Division I football championship since 1987.
The ’Bolts are hoping 26 years is long enough.
“We stay healthy, I think we’ll have a chance,” Centore said. “I really do. That’s the way they’re going into it, thinking that way. And so are we.”