Thanksgiving Tradition Barely Hanging On
The EPHS Townie football team completed its 2019 season with a 35-14 loss to its once hated rival LaSalle Academy. The football rivalry between East Providence High and La Salle Academy is a storied one. It is the oldest in-state school rivalry. The Thanksgiving Day series officially began in 1929. However, the two schools actually started play against each other in 1927, EP won 6-0 and there was no game in 1928. The Thanksgiving game series officially “started” in 1929 with a LaSalle 19-6 win. The 2019 EP-LaSalle game will be the 91st total contest between the two rivals. Some however consider it the 90th game if you only count from 1929. Whatever statistic you use, for decades the game was the premier football game in all of Rhode Island. Many years the state championship was on the line.
In 2014 the RI Interscholastic League (RIIL) Principal’s Committee on Athletics recommended and most high schools voted to change the state football playoff format. "Beginning in 2014 all semifinal games will be played on the Friday before Thanksgiving. The traditional Thanksgiving Day games will be played as “non- league” games. Divisional championship games will be played before Thanksgiving," said RIIL full time director Tom Mezzanotte at that time. Only East Providence and LaSalle voted to keep the former system. Most other schools agreed to the new format. "We had the significant Thanksgiving Day game. It often meant that either LaSalle or EP would move on to the championship," said LaSalle Athletic Director Ted Quigley before the 2019 game. "Look at this small crowd. It is so different," observed Quigley as he greeted the few attendees at the game. Townie Athletic Director, Gregg Amore echoed those sentiments. "The predominant series in Rhode Island just isn't the same anymore. The new playoff format and other reasons have changed the face of Townie-Ram football for good," said Amore. "As an example, I know a group of guys from the 80's who never missed a game. They came together every year. There not here today, they're playing golf this morning before their family dinners," said Amore.
Indeed the stands were sparsely filled. At kickoff there were a few people dribbling in but the electric atmosphere that was evident from the 1920's through just a few years ago was eerily gone. There were no push cart sales of Townie and Ram banners or noise-makers. There were no long lines at the concession stand. And those famous LaSalle tailgating groups of alumni and fans were nowhere to be seen. You could have left your house at 9:45 am and still found parking and a seat at the 50 yard line by kickoff at 10 am. Other than a presence in the press box by the EP Reporter, there were no other members of the press in sight. In the past, field security had to limit press box access.
Ted Quigley and former Pierce Stadium manager Joe Medeiros talked before the game of years gone by. They reminisced about the crowds of 8 to 10,000 people who came out every year. "We had to plan for this game weeks in advance," said the now retired Medeiros. "Police details, parking plans, ticket sellers, press coverage, it was a major effort and the streets of East Providence were mobbed with fans. Students even came to the game in police escorted motorcades," he recalled.
However in 2019, the stands were mostly empty, the parking lots had plenty of spaces left, you could get something to drink or eat at the concession with no wait and the action on the field was lacking any intensity worthy of a storied rivalry. Both athletic directors wonder how long the series can continue. It is strictly an exhibition game now.
"When I became La Salle's AD in 2000, it was close to the peak of the rivalry. Everything about the game was magnified," said Quigley. "The 2001 game was probably the most watched high school football game in Rhode Island in the past 50 years. People were sitting along the grass berm by the main entrance because the bleachers were full. Both teams were undefeated coming into the game and the atmosphere was electric. Each year, if the game wasn't being played to determine a champion, it was played for seeding in the playoffs. Once the game became a non-league game, much of the excitement was lost," added Quigley.
The rivalry was so intense that neither team or fan base liked each other. "There was respect for each other but we didn't really like each other," said former all-state Townie quarterback Jim Rose, Class of 1970. In fact after a few brawls and rivalry pranks between the schools players and fans, former Townie AD Ken Reall started the "good faith dinners" between team captains and coaches from both schools in the early 90's. "Phil Ricci (former EP AD) and I continued the tradition and expanded it to include all of the seniors on each team. That lasted almost 20 years," recalled Quigley. The need for that dinner has evaporated with the intensity of the rivalry now gone.
East Providence fans and alumni will complain about "excessive" or borderline "illegal" recruiting of its players by LaSalle and Hendricken as a major reason for the demise of the rivalry. It's a topic that the league and school officials won't discuss publicly but it hangs heavy in the air of many public school athletic programs.
LaSalle also had a bit of a down year for their team. It was expected by many that Hendricken and LaSalle would once again play for the top state championship this year. However the Rams suffered three losses on the season and missed the top game. Hendricken won the title again. Call it the super bowl, Division 1 Championship, Class A Title, whatever you want but the fact remains that LaSalle and the Townies are still one-two in state championship football banners. LaSalle has won 17 titles and EPHS has 15 state championships. It is expected however that the Rams will be surpassed shortly by Hendricken High School. Hendricken now with 14 state titles, has dominated Super Bowl play by winning 8 of the last 9 super bowls. The only blemish to the Hawks recent dominance was the 22-21 exciting last second win by LaSalle in 2017. Hendricken bounced back with a 42-6 win last year.
East Providence won state championships in 1943, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1979, 1980, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2006. The Townies handled Hendricken well through the years. The Hawks bested the Townies 26-12 in 1995 but EP then beat the Hawks 26-0 in 1997, 12-6 in OT in 1999 and again 35-12 in 2006. The Townies beat LSA in super bowl games in 2002, 35-21, and in 2003, 19-6. LSA won the title in 2001, 26-18.
LaSalle state titles were in 1932, 1933, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1942, 1943 (tied with EP), 1944, 1945, 1948, 1951, 1955,2000, 2001, 2008 and 2017. LSA won the title over EP in 1938, 1942 and in 2001.
It is what it is, say many, the rivalry and excitement is gone. There was a game in 2019. As expected East Providence lost but "we gave it our best," said Townie coach Jay Monteiro. "It's sad but I remember those glory days of the past. At least we did make the playoffs this year." With the season over weeks ago, it's a battle to keep up the interest for Thanksgiving. A school with a storied football history and once being considered as the powerhouse program in Rhode Island, may soon no longer play on Thanksgiving Day. All good things come to an end.
Senior National Letter of Intent and National Signing Day - EPHS
East Providence High School participated in the annual NCAA National Letter of Intent and Signing Day last month in a ceremony at the high school. "We are proud today to celebrate the college signing of three of our student-athletes and to recognize all that they have done to get this far," said Athletic Director Gregg Amore. "Not only do these students have to compete athletically but also in the classroom. If you look around the room today, you will see family members, coaches, teachers and fellow students who have been a part of your success," Amore told the three recipients. "You have a whole community here to support you."
Mia Jackson will be going to Stonehill College as a soccer player, Cole Poissant will attend Franklin Pierce for baseball and Yanis Benaduda will attend Providence College for swimming. "We're incredibly proud of all our athletes for persevering in the classroom and on the fields and in the gyms and we look forward to other signings later in the school year," said Amore.
"We have a lot to be proud of at East Providence High School and these students represent some of our best. Yanis Benaduda is the latest in a line of tremendous swimmers at EPHS. We've had Olympians, Division I athletes, many who have gone on from high school to excel. The stark improvement of our swim team started with the arrival of Yanis here at the high school. Not only has he performed individually but he has carried the team to success," added Amore. "Not only that he's a good kid," Amore said to chuckles in the crowd.
"I don't think anyone embodies Townie Pride like Mia Jackson. She is a three sport athlete who operates with enthusiasm beyond enthusiasm every moment of every day," said Amore. "If you watch Mia compete you will learn the meaning of compete. Mia leaves it out there all day, every day."
"The first time I met Cole Poissant was when he was in middle school. We talked baseball. I heard he was a good baseball player. As I started to watch Cole play, I can say unequivocally that he is the best defensive catcher in the state of Rhode Island. He's been contributing to this team since the moment he walked into EPHS. He's the best and he is right here at our high school," said Amore to applause from those in the room.
Principal Shani Wallace also addressed the group. "I want to thank the three of you for being part of a senior class that has made my last four years here very enjoyable. This group really embodies Townie Pride in a big way. Your school is very proud of you. I'm also proud that these colleges have chosen you three to attend their prestigious schools. I also say thank you to your families for letting us share this experience with you and I wish you all the best," added the principal.
Girls soccer coach Angelo Pizzi also addressed the group. The girls soccer team recently made an impressive run through the state playoffs and fell short of a championship. "Mia Jackson is a three time all-division selection and was our goalkeeper during the 2016 state championship team. She was a key then and is a key player now. In 2017 she was an all-division goalkeeper for our undefeated season. She has led us to three titles and exciting playoff appearances. "Mia is the mom on the field. She controls the action the tempo and even has calmed me down when I would yell and get nervous. Mia was a coach on the field," said Coach Pizzi. "Her ability to discern what is happening on the field and direct the action was incredible."
Townie head baseball coach Bobby Rodericks was on hand to speak about his baseball catcher Cole Poissant. Rodericks who teaches at Martin Middle School said that he first met Poissant when he was in third of fourth grade. "We connected right away as I was a catcher myself and watching Cole develop as a catcher, I've seen him develop greatly every year. He (Cole) made the middle school team as a starter in the 6th grade. I've had my eye on him for a long time and when he came to the high school, it was the first time in my career that I've seen a player - especially a catcher - start as a 9th grader. You are one of the rare four year starters at the varsity level," said Rodericks. "What impresses me the most about Cole is that as his high school years are waning down, his grades are continuing to improve. As much as I love what he does on the field, I am more impressed with his performance in the classroom."
Guidance counselor and assistant athletic director Rob Traverse also addressed the students. "Two of these student-athletes are in the top ten percent of their class. All three are doing very well academically. This epitomizes Townie Pride. You make us proud to be Townies. Your teachers can not be prouder of how you have performed these last four years.
Cole Poissant has not only been a four year starter in baseball at the difficult position of catcher but has been a fierce competitor on the field. "I had two or three other Division I colleges interested and a few in Division II but I liked Franklin Pierce," said Poissant after the ceremony. "I enjoyed the tour of the school. The campus is beautiful and it is what I wanted in a school. My parents agree also. The baseball fields are awesome, their coaches liked me and I can't wait to get started," he added. "I think sports helped me as a student. I play basketball also and it helped keep me in shape for baseball. Sports in general helps students do well in class," said Poissant.
Mia Jackson has decided on Stonehill College. "I had a couple of schools in mind but Stonehill offered what I was looking for academically," said Jackson. "Their teachers program is excellent and they have a great soccer program. Stonehill offers a good challenge to me academically and athletically." Jackson was asked about attending public or non-public school in preparation for college. "I definitely support public schools but I think both public or private offer good opportunities. I think as long as you have the right mind set and have goals in sight and you work hard, you can do well. Family support is also very important. No matter where you're at, you'll make it if you work hard and have the support system," Jackson said.
Yanis Benaduda will be attending Providence College. "I had some other choices, Bryant, Springfield and a few more. PC just had everything I wanted. Campus, coaches, it felt like a place I can spend my next four years," said Benaduda. "PC is strong in swimming and academics and I'm looking forward to it. Sports in general has kept me busy and disciplined and has definitely helped me to do well with my academics. Sports also helps to manage your time and I thank all my teachers and coaches at EPHS."
All three students have received some level of financial support and signed letters of intent to attend the colleges involved. "People need to understand that most student-athletes will not get major financial scholarships to attend colleges and universities. Thousands of students across the country will sign letters of intent today and we have three of the best right here at East Providence High School. We anticipate more will sign in the coming months during the next phase of college acceptance notices. We are all so proud of these students and of our school," said the Athletic Director.
EP Junior Townies Youth Football and Cheerleading win 12U State Titles.
The East Providence Junior Townies football team culminated an exciting season with a state title win over the CLCF Chiefs last month. The EP Junior Townies 12U Football team beat the CLCF Chiefs (Cranston) by a score of 36-12 in the 12U Super Bowl for Blackstone Valley Youth Football and Cheerleading (AYF). The game was held at Durfee High School in Fall River, MA on November 10, 2019. The league's 12U cheerleading team also won the conference championship. "We are also proud that our D10, D12 and D14 Cheer Squads all placed First at the Cheer Competition last month. A lot of hard work and dedication by those squads," said league Publicist and 13U Assistant Football Coach, Steve Clark.
"Today was the first Super Bowl Win since the 2015 Season. And next game will be our very first time playing in the New England AYF Regional, which will be a Semifinals Game at Durfee High School (Fall River, MA) vs. the Manchester East Cobras," said an excited league president Tony de Simas. "A job well done, 12U Coaches, team Mom, parents and of course players, on an amazing game today," Simas said after the championship game. "Townie Pride was alive and well," he added.
The state tournament is officially called the "Blackstone Valley Youth Football and Cheerleading 12U Football Conference Championship." East Providence won both the 12U football and cheer contests.
The CLCF Chiefs 12U team was previously undefeated and the Junior Townies defense held them to only 12 points including an interception return for a touchdown by Isaac Fox. "Our offense was led by Saqari Monroe with 3 touchdown runs, Jaidin Orefice with 1 touchdown run and Isaac Fox with 1 touchdown run," said Head Coach Lee Ogaldez. "Our team enjoyed great community support and it certainly helped our players," added Ogaldez.
With the win Ogaldez and his 12U football team earned a trip to the New England AYF Semifinals where they will face the Manchester East Cobras from the New Hampshire Youth Football & Spirit Conference (AYF).
Mayor Bob DaSilva was on hand to help send off the young Townies at Pierce Stadium before the teams left for the Super Bowl. "I had the honor of joining these great young athletes, their coaches and their families as they prepared to head out to the Super Bowl at Durfee High School in Fall River. All of East Providence is behind these young people," said the Mayor. "Good luck in the New Englands," added the Mayor.
While both 12U Football and D12 Cheer earned State Championships this year, the D10 and D14 Cheer are also competing in the AYF/AYC Regionals. "It has been quite a season. Our kids and coaches have worked very hard all year long," added Steve Clark. "Parents and the community have been supportive. We appreciate the Mayor giving our kids an inspirational send-off before the title game. It was great, the kids loved it," added Clark.
East Providence Junior Townies Players:
Brandon Doherty, Ricardo Lopes, Jaidin Orefice, Ryan Ward, Matthew Zimmerman, David Rodriguez, Miguel Colon, Saqari Monroe, Jayden Vasquez, Isaac Fox, Naya Phillip, Evan Ogaldez, Maxwell Parish, Timothy Nolan, Jordan Carl, Jonathan DeOliveira, Nahdeem Richardson, Lorenzo Laurens, Angelo Rodriguez, Amani Boisseau, Ryan Rigamonti and Jordan Estrela.
Coaches, Team Parent, President:
Lee Ogaldez, Julio Adorno, Joe Cook, Jason Overfield, Julio Adorno, Justin Bessell, Kendrick Hayes, Rudy Laurens, Jessica Benoit and Tony de Simas.
EPHS Soccer Has Good Season:
The girls soccer team just missed a state championship as they finished a banner season in which they moved in and out of 1st place. "The girls gave it a great shot and we had a remarkable season even though falling just short of the state title," said coach Angelo Pizzi.
Pizzi later announced post season awards:
Alyssa DeOliviera - 3rd team All-state, 1st team All-division, Mia Jackson - 1st team All-division, Lily Budnick - 1st team All-division, Ashley Cassino-Henriquez - 2nd team All-division, Savannah Feloa - 2nd team All-division, Olivia Williams - 2nd team All-division
Briana Lopes - 3rd team All-division, Hailee Mantiega - 3rd team All-division,Isabella Monteiro - Sportsmanship All-division and Aaliyah Pattie - Academic All-division.
Final Interscholastic Fall Standings:
Football - Division I-A League Season
Schools W - L W - L
Hendricken High 7 - 0 9 - 0
North Kingstown 6 - 1 9 - 1
Shea High School 4 - 3 5 - 4
Cumberland 4 - 3 4 - 5
St. Raphael Academy 2 - 5 4 - 5
East Providence 2 - 5 3 - 7
Cranston East 0 - 7 0 - 8
Football - Division I-B League Season
Schools W - L W - L
Cranston West 6 - 1 8 - 3
Portsmouth 6 - 1 6 - 3
La Salle 5 - 3 7 - 3
Central High 3 - 4 5 - 5
Barrington High 2 - 5 3 - 6
South Kingstown 2 - 5 2 - 7
Moses Brown 0 - 7 0 - 7
Boys Soccer Division I League Season
Schools W - L - T - Pts W - L - T - Pts
North Kingstown 12 - 1- 2- 38 13 - 2 - 2 - 41
South Kingstown 10 - 2- 3- 33 11 - 2 - 4 - 37
La Salle 10 - 3- 3- 33 10 - 3 - 4 - 34
Tolman 10 - 5- 2- 32 12 - 5 - 2 - 38
Portsmouth 10 - 5- 1- 31 10 - 5 - 1 - 31
Moses Brown 8 - 3- 5- 29 8 - 3 - 6 - 30
Hendricken 9 - 6- 0- 27 10 - 7 - 0 - 30
Classical 7 - 5- 3- 24 8 - 6 - 3 - 27
Barrington 6 - 7- 2- 20 6 - 9 - 2 - 20
Central Falls 5 - 7- 3- 18 5 - 9 - 3 - 18
East Providence 4 - 7- 5- 17 4 - 7 - 5 - 17
Central 5 - 9- 1- 16 5 - 10 - 1 - 16
Cumberland 3 - 7- 5- 14 3 - 7 - 6 - 15
Shea High 4 - 10- 1- 13 4 - 10 - 1 - 13
Coventry 1 - 13- 1- 4 1 - 13 - 1 - 4
Smithfield 1 - 14- 1- 4 1 - 14 - 1 - 4
Girls Soccer Division 3 League Season
Schools W - L - T - Pts W - L - T - Pts
Pilgrim 16 - 0- 0- 48 17 - 0 - 1 - 52
North Smithfield 14 - 2- 0- 42 15 - 3 - 0 - 45
East Providence 11 - 1- 4- 37 11 - 2 - 4 - 37
Moses Brown 11 - 3- 2- 35 13 - 3 - 3 - 42
Exeter/West G. 11 - 5- 0- 33 11 - 6 - 0 - 33
Chariho 10 - 4- 2- 32 12 - 5 - 2 - 38
Middletown 7 - 6- 3- 24 8 - 7 - 3 - 27
Ponaganset 7 - 8- 1- 22 7 - 9 - 1 - 22
Wheeler School 6 - 6- 4- 22 7 - 7 - 4 - 25
Westerly 5 - 7- 4- 19 5 - 9 - 4 - 19
West Warwick 5 - 8- 3- 18 5 - 8 - 3 - 18
North Providence 5 - 10- 1- 16 5 - 10 - 1 - 16
Mt. St. Charles 4 - 11- 1- 13 4 - 11 - 1 - 13
St. Raphael 3 - 10- 3- 12 3 - 10 - 3 - 12
Toll Gate 2 - 11- 2- 8 2 - 11 - 2 - 8
Lincoln School 1 - 13- 2- 5 1 - 13 - 2 - 5
Johnston 0 - 13- 2- 2 0 - 13 - 2 - 2
Girls Tennis Division II League Season
Schools W - L W - L
Mt. Hope 12 - 1 15 - 1
Middletown 12 - 1 12 - 2
Ponaganset 10 - 3 12 - 4
Narragansett 10 - 3 11 - 4
Portsmouth 7 - 5 7 - 6
North Smithfield 7 - 5 7 - 7
Chariho 7 - 6 8 - 7
Lincoln 6 - 7 6 - 8
South Kingstown 5 - 9 5 - 9
East Providence 4 - 9 4 - 9
Classical High 3 - 9 3 - 9
Lincoln School 3 - 10 3 - 10
Cranston East 2 - 10 3 - 10
Scituate High 1 - 12 1 - 12
Girls Volleyball Division I-B League Season
Schools W - L W - L
North Kingstown 15 - 0 16 - 0
South Kingstown 14 - 2 15 - 2
Cranston West 7 - 8 7 - 9
East Providence 4 - 11 4 - 11
Ponaganset 3 - 12 3 - 12
Mount St. Charles 2 - 11 2 - 11