SPORTS

Another local moving on up

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 10/14/20

Sometimes I have too many thoughts and ideas to narrow into one column, this week especially. We are now in our third week of the return of high school sports, national sports are wrapping up except for the NFL, and there were a few other nuggets from

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SPORTS

Another local moving on up

Posted

Sometimes I have too many thoughts and ideas to narrow into one column, this week especially.

We are now in our third week of the return of high school sports, national sports are wrapping up except for the NFL, and there were a few other nuggets from this past week worth mentioning.

So here are some quick-hit thoughts I have from the past week in sports:

Another Rhode Islander will be adding his name to the list of Ocean State natives to reach the professional level, as Bishop Hendricken alum and East Greenwich native Brett Berard was drafted in the fifth round of the NHL Draft by the New York Rangers. Berard is currently with Providence College.

I was able to catch the tail end of Berard’s high school career, and I am not much of a scout, but from everything that I have seen, heard and read, it seems like that was a good value for him.

Now, from here, where will he go? Of course, once you get out of the first round or two, it is always tricky to make solid predictions for prospects. It will likely be quite some time before we see Berard suit up for the NHL club, but he comes from an impressive hockey lineage and has been involved in some pretty high-caliber programs.

He’s a gamer as well, an extremely competitive kid that plays with guts and heart. Of course, most young players do, but he is abnormal when compared to typical players his age.

It will be fun to track his progress in the next couple of years. Either way, any publicity for Rhode Island sports is good publicity. There have been a handful of baseball players and football players in the past couple of years, but this is a pretty big splash made on the ice. Congrats, Brett.

Next up, we are now fully underway with high school sports.

This past weekend I caught my first soccer action since it started a week later than the other sports from the week prior. This delay was due to soccer being a bit more physical than cross country and tennis, which I think was a good decision.

I was a bit apprehensive at first. Would kids be uncomfortable playing with masks? Would the officiating be different with COVID in the back of everyone’s mind? Would the small rule tweaks turn out to be big ones? I had my doubts as to whether or not the games would at all resemble the norm.

I was pleasantly surprised, though. I was optimistic despite the doubt, however, like the other events I had covered to that point, soccer was just fine and felt exactly how it did last fall.

Now, obviously there are masks and small adjustments, but 99 percent of everything felt the same. It was great to be back out there and I am looking forward to the rest of the season. We are now another step closer to being back entirely.

We are still a ways off from being totally back, but every baby step counts. Each week I am reminding readers that we are inching closer. It may seem repetitive at this point, but each week that we avoid outbreaks, introduce new sports, what have you, we are making progress which is encouraging to say the least.

Which brings me to my next topic … one that is much less pleasant.

So, for those of you who read my columns each week, I am very, very, very pro-referee.

I stick up for refs frequently. I hate when people whine to the refs, blame them for losses, credit them for wins. Whether it is the people on the field or the spectators, I absolutely cannot stand when officials are abused. We are in an ongoing referee shortage crisis, and I can’t say I blame anyone that would not consider joining the force. It’s a thankless job that requires an incredible amount of patience for little pay.

However, the officiating at the Pilgrim-Smithfield boys soccer game on Friday night was atrocious and did unfortunately impact the game.

Long story short, the game was tied at 1-1 at half. Early in the second half, the refs were communicating with Pilgrim between whistles while Smithfield was getting ready to set up a corner kick. Somehow, in the midst of all of these moving parts, a ref blew the whistle, Smithfield booted the ball into the net, and half the Pilgrim squad did not even realize the game resumed. 2-1, Smithfield.

Then later in the half. Pilgrim was fighting hard to close the gap as time waned. The Pats were playing hard, creating opportunities, trying to break through. Then, the refs blew the whistle and awarded Smithfield with a penalty kick which was converted. 3-1, game over.

Now, could Pilgrim have been more alert when the corner kick was converted? Yes, similar to a boxing ref saying “protect yourself at all times.” And, was the penalty kick questionable, leaving room for the possibility of the ref actually being correct? Yes, I’ll give you that.

But at the end of the day, these two teams played dead even and gave it their all. It is a shame that half the points scored came on weird, ticky tack type of sequences. Refs have the responsibility of ensuring the game is played by the rules with efficiency. However, the odds of Pilgrim having a chance at the end would have skyrocketed had the refs not affected things.

When the game is coming down to the wire, I am a firm believer in only blowing the whistle on a clear call. That final call was anything but. I still am not fully aware of what happened and even Smithfield seemed a bit confused when they sent their shooter to the line.

Once again, I sympathize with refs and take their side 99 percent of the time. What happened last week falls in that 1 percent where I have to disagree. The whistle should never have been blown, the communication should have been better. Although I disagree, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to early-season rust.

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