My Pitch

Another fall in the books

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And just like that, fall sports are over.

There were plenty of surprises, some pleasant, some unpleasant. There were plenty of teams that rose to the occasion, some teams broke out, while others fell short.

Overall, it was a great season for sports, especially in the Beacon Communications coverage area.

Cranston West enjoyed a great season, especially on the gridiron. After breaking a decade-long postseason drought last year, the Falcons did themselves one better and made it all the way to the Division I Super Bowl against North Kingstown.

Although the Falcons came up short in a tight game, they proved that last year was not just a fluke, and that they are set up to be a contender for the next few years. New head coach Tom Milewski got the most out of his talent, and helped put West football back on the map, along with studs like quarterback Cam Alves, and playmakers Brennan Stetson, Evan Degaitas and many more.

The West unified volleyball team added to the Falcon’s trophy with a state championship win. I have always been a big advocate for unified sports, so to see one of our schools put such an emphasis on inclusion is great to see.

The West girls soccer team also had a solid campaign, advancing to the Division I quarterfinals, along with the boys, who also made it to their quarterfinals.

The Cranston East soccer programs also had a heck of a fall. Although they were not able to claim a state championship, both the boys and girls clubs qualified for the playoffs, with the girls advancing all the way to the Division III semifinals, while the boys fell in the prelims.

Let’s look at Pilgrim, which had probably the most dominant season in the state in my opinion.

Obviously the hot story right now is the football team. After two disappointing campaigns, it looked like the Pats were in for another long year in 2018. However, despite the doubters, despite having a new coach, despite the low expectations from the public, Pilgrim football is back on the map after making it to the Division III Super Bowl.

It will certainly be interesting next season now that the Patriots are no longer under the radar. The majority of the roster will return, and the young coaching staff will be even better. Head coach Blake Simpson believes that his team thrives under pressure, so the Pats should be right back at it in Division III.

This was also a great season for the soccer teams at Pilgrim. The boys captured its first state title since the 2000 season, pulling off the upset over St. Rays after surging to the top of the standings in the second half of the regular season, while the girls made it to the big dance and came up just short. Both clubs were fantastic this season, and proved that Warwick has the best soccer in the state, starting all the way from the Warwick Firefighters Soccer Club.

The girls tennis team also made it to the playoffs, along with the girls volleyball team and the field hockey team.

It was a historic fall for Pilgrim High, and will go down as one of the most successful seasons ever considering the dominance across the board. Midway through the season I wrote a column about the possibility of all of these teams making it to the postseason, and somehow they all managed to get the job done. Kudos, Patriots.

Toll Gate also had a solid fall season as well. The field hockey team enjoyed one of its best seasons in the program’s history, and made it all the way to the state title after topping rival Pilgrim in the semis.

The football team has also continued to impress, qualifying for its second-straight postseason appearance.

One of the best stories of the fall occurred off the field however.

Back in September, an unknown group of vandals damaged the rock that serves as a memorial to the late Gianna Cirella outside of the school. Within hours, the entire Toll Gate girls soccer team was at the scene repairing the damage, and possibly even improving the memorial from its original condition.

Current Toll Gate soccer players, students, family and friends chipped in, along with Toll Gate alumni. Local businesses also lent a hand, delivering food and water during the hot day.

Once again, it showed how close this community is, and how something awful can sometimes bring out the best in people. Kudos, Titans.

As always, Bishop Hendricken was in the mix across the board as well.

After falling to the rival La Salle Rams in the 2017 Super Bowl, which ended the Hawks’ streak of seven straight state championships, many wondered who the top team in Division I was heading into 2018.

The Hawks responded, and would go undefeated in league play and cruise to a dominant 42-6 state title win over the Rams, once again securing their place atop the state.

Not only did the Hawks win the state championship, but they made it look easy. Other than one, maybe two games throughout the year, the Hawks thoroughly outclassed their opponents. This year’s group was hungry, and will go down as one of the best (if not the best) groups in Hendricken history.

The Hendricken cross country team also ran to another state championship to keep its streak alive, and would later impress with a top-5 finish at New Englands. Those two achievements are just two of the many, many things that the Hawks accomplished this fall. This may also be the best team in the program’s history.

The Hendricken unified volleyball team also captured another state title, and was recently honored as a Unified Sports National Champion school by the Special Olympics.

The upcoming winter season will be here before you know it. Teams begin tryouts and practice this week, so games will be starting in the blink of an eye.

I’ve said it multiple times throughout the season, but fall sports are always my favorite. Although I will miss covering these sports for the time being, especially being under the Friday night lights, I do look forward to the winter season, and am interested to see if these schools can continue to roll.

Overall, it was a great first fall season in Rhode Island. Unfortunately for these Warwick schools though, they have set the bar extremely high for what’s next, and I can’t wait to see what is in store this winter.

Congratulations to all of our athletes, coaches, schools, families and friends on a great fall season.

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