Football is back. After months of delay, waiting, uncertainty, we are finally going to see our local teams hit the gridiron this Friday night for the first time in over a year. Last week, I broke down the situation with each team and how they are looking
Football is back.
After months of delay, waiting, uncertainty, we are finally going to see our local teams hit the gridiron this Friday night for the first time in over a year.
Last week, I broke down the situation with each team and how they are looking in the early going. This week, let’s make a few predictions.
Now, unlike normal years, I am not going to be predicting records or precise finishes … more of just the ceilings, I guess.
It’s a shortened schedule with some teams going up against unfamiliar opponents. Nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to COVID, and even the playoff formats are a little unsettled at this point. There are just too many factors in play, but let me take a crack at it. Bishop Hendricken
The Hawks are always contenders and this season will be no different.
Sure, they lost much of their offense including their quarterback, but the Hawks are always deep with numbers and still return what should be a stout defense. This team is a well-oiled machine on an annual basis and there is not much more to say than that.
The trick will be the offense and how fast it can put the pieces together. Hendricken’s coaching staff is also as stable and battle-tested as any in the state, so there should be little doubt that they will be able to pull it off.
Will the wonky, shortened preseason take its toll? Probably to an extent, but it will for everyone, so it kind of balances itself out.
It would be crazy to say the Hawks are anything but championship hopefuls.
Prediction: State Championship appearance (at least) Pilgrim
I remember when the Pats won the Division III State Championship back in 2019, and I was arguing against Pilgrim being moved up a division.
It was the school’s first football title since 1975, it took them a number of years to finally climb back into contendership, I just felt like moving them up and out would be a little unfair to the kids. I didn’t even consider the fact that they would be losing 20 seniors to graduation.
Nothing lasts forever, and now, the defending DIII champs are in DII looking to make a splash with a very young roster.
Although the vast majority of Pilgrim’s championship roster is out the door, I believe in big game experience, even if you are on the sidelines. I’ll admit, I probably value experience a little too much, but I feel like just being present in preparation and on the sidelines is so important. Of course, if you have actual varsity playing time in big spots, that’s ideal, but I’ll take some experience over none.
That was a long, roundabout way of me saying that I think this team won’t look as young as its roster is. Not to mention head coach Blake Simpson is entering his third year at the helm … he’s gotten better each year and looks to be the real deal moving forward.
Prediction: On the playoff fence, we’ll see which way the wind blows. Toll Gate
All eyes will be on quarterback Greyson Pasquina.
Pasquina is entering his third season as the team’s signal caller which is an incredible advantage. Typically, quarterbacks don’t get to start until their junior year and sometimes have to wait until their senior season. Pasquina has been the guy since a sophomore and has been improving on a weekly basis.
The Titans had a shaky start to their 2019 season but turned things around down the stretch and reached the postseason … much thanks to Pasquina’s improvement as well as an emerging running attack.
The Titans return a few receivers but lost their two running backs. But as I said earlier, experience in my opinion is so big at the high school level, and the quarterback is one of the most experienced players on the team. John Olink also returns to lead an experienced line. Between the team’s strength up front and Pasquina under center, I think the Titans will be just fine.
Prediction: Return to the playoffs Cranston West
The biggest question with the Falcons will be the quarterback position as Cam Alves graduated and headed to Stonehill.
With Kris Degaitas and Brennan Stetson returning, the offense should be in pretty good shape either way. As I said last week, this team always plays smashmouth football on the defensive side as well.
The Falcons have a pretty sizable junior core with 12 players, so that will be another key, how will those guys step up?
Pilgrim, for example, is one of those teams where legitimate youngsters are going to have to make an impact. With West on the other hand, many of these guys got reps on a regular basis whether it be off the bench or in starting roles last year. However, we will have to see how big of a step forward they will take.
West has reached the Division I Super Bowl the past two seasons and has really established a steady, consistent program. Point being, I expect these juniors to be ready to step up and I think they’ll be able to overcome the loss of Alves and the other seniors to be back in the mix. Would some early-season struggles surprise me? No, but by the end of the season, the Falcons will be a factor.
Prediction: Return to the playoffs (with championship upside) Cranston East
The Bolts were one of the youngest, if not the youngest, teams in Division I in 2019, and unfortunately, it showed.
The Bolts missed the playoffs in quite awhile and at times were overwhelmed by the DI competition. Against the cream of the crop, it was even more apparent.
Much of the same core returns, including quarterback Ben Harding. The team boasts a solid rushing attack and what should be a viable line on each side of the ball.
It is going to come down to the playmakers, plain and simple.
The Bolts should be able to do the basics: Run the ball, defend the run, play disciplined, play smart.
But will they have one or two x-factors emerge? Whether it be receivers, defensive backs? They need that little bit extra to become true factors in Division I, will they get it?
When looking at last season and the still youthful roster, I can’t say expectations are high. But when you look at this program and the success it has had over the past decade, I feel that it would be a mistake to count them out.
Prediction: On the playoff fence, but will need something to break to fall on right side Johnston
Last season felt like it was shaping up to be the Panthers’ coming out party, however, Johnston finished with just one win.
Johnston had the talent, but it was one of those seasons where a tough start snowballed into a variety of issues. They just weren't ready.
This season though, they’ll have Hunter Remington back under center as well as Thomas Zednik there to be one of the top pass catchers in the state.
Once again, talent is not an issue with this team. They have playmakers, they have size, and after a tough down year, they have some valuable experience.
Maybe I am being too optimistic here, but I feel that things will come together for this team. Obviously, they can only go up from here, but I truly feel that the playmakers on this team will help lead the Panthers to a few more wins.
Prediction: Playoff appearance