FAIRFIELD, Ct. â Through all the ups and downs, the good times and the hardships, the smile still comes naturally.
The widespread grin of Rakim Sanders has come to embody his innocence and easygoing temperament. Scratch beneath the surface and youâll find a compassionate young man, someone who possesses the necessary zeal and resolve which made sure he didnât become symbolic of the Pawtucket housing project of his youth.
PAWTUCKET â We hear the phrase âmaking playsâ from athletes and coaches so often that sometimes the exact meaning of the phrase gets lost in its overuse.
Cumberland coach Chris Skurka used the term to describe how his underdog Clippers sneaked past favored Tolman by a 13-9 margin on Saturday night in a Division II quarterfinal playoff game.
âThatâs what this team does,â Skurka said. âWe make plays.â
PROVIDENCE â âShea is probably the most technical (skilled) team in the state,â La Salle coach Mario Pereira was saying on Saturday afternoon, âbut I told my kids I think we are the better team.â
The Rams, who had the best record in Division I during the regular season, proved their coach right by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the Raiders in the Division I state title contest.
Shea won the coin toss and elected to play into the wind during the first half and quickly fell behind, 3-0.
PROVIDENCE --- With a combined 17 goals allowed between them this season, it was clear that scoring was going to be at a minimum in the Division II state finals between second-seeded Lincoln High and unbeaten No. 1 seed Exeter/West Greenwich.
That held true on Sunday afternoon at the Rhode Island College complex. But after a tight contest for 60 minutes, the Scarlet Knights broke through with two goals in a seven-minute span to pave the way for their second straight state crown with a 3-1 victory over the Lions in a rematch of last year's championship contest.
PAWTUCKET â Cumberland High made enough big plays on Saturday night to knock Tolman out of the Division II playoffs.
The Clippers got a 75-yard touchdown run by Erik Travers in the first quarter and then pulled out a 13-9 victory with a scoring drive in the final 4-1/2 minutes that was capped by Ryan Gaumondâs game-winning one-yard plunge with 1:36 left in the contest.
SOUTH KINGSTOWN â Sixteen times this season, defending state champion Exeter/West Greenwich has faced an opponent in Division II. Sixteen times, it has won handily.
No. 17 proved to be it toughest.
Seeking its first team crown in the school's history Saturday at Keaney Gymnasium, No. 3 seed Cumberland battled the top-seeded Scarlet Knights to a five-set thriller in the state finals before succumbing to scores of 22-25, 25-16, 21-25, 25-20 and 15-10.
WESTERLY â St. Raphael Academy got off to a 15-0 lead on Friday night before Westerly rallied for a 36-22 victory in the Division II quarterfinals.
The Saints took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. After both teams punted twice to open the game, the Saints won the field position battle, setting up shop on Westerlyâs 28-yard line. Diazâs first punt had pinned Westerly back on its 17-yard line. His second punt was down on the Bulldogsâ six-yard line. Westerly then punted and could only get the ball out to the 28-yard line.
EAST GREENWICH â Jillian DeSimone had a feeling something good was about to happen upon sending a crossing feed toward the Mt. Hope net.
Why was DeSimone confident? Letâs just say Friday night wasnât the first time the Lincoln senior captain shoveled off a pass with the intention of setting up one of her teammates. Turns out that teammate was junior Annie Carrol, who sacrificed her body en route to producing the only goal Lincoln would need in a 1-0 victory against Mt. Hope in the Division II semifinals. Carrol's tally came with just over six minutes remaining in second half.
NORTH SMITHFIELD â North Smithfield is heading back in the Division IV playoffs, and the Northmen earned their return trip the hard way â with a five-game win streak loaded with victories over the divisionâs top teams.
The Northmen celebrated their âSenior Nightâ and officially stamped their ticket to the postseason on Friday by putting away the divisionâs top scoring team, Central Falls, by a 20-6 score.
Rick Pitino, sage that he is, shared this little anecdote at last monthâs Big East media day â one that illustrates the waves new Providence College head coach Ed Cooley is making on the recruiting trail.
âHeâs already attracting âŠ he beat us out on a player recruiting-wise,â said Pitino point blank, his eyes lighting up as if they were filled with fire. âI would have said, when it got to Providence and us [Louisville], he would have had no shot in getting this player, but Ed got him. So heâs already made an impact.â