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In the throes of a tough and challenging season, there lies comfort in knowing youâre not the only one in said predicament.
For Burrillville and Lincoln, Saturdayâs Division III encounter at the Broncosâ Alumni Field has âsomethingâs got to giveâ written all over it. The setting is this: you have two squads that have combined to drop all nine of its league chances, meaning the opportunity for a team to finally break the ice and walk off the field with a win tucked in its back pocket has never been more within reach (overall the Lions are 0-6 while the Broncos are 1-5).
In place is a pair of gridiron kindred spirits cut from the same cloth, though the similarities stretch well beyond the obvious. Removing each teamâs record from the equation, why Burrillville and Lincoln each enter the final weekend of October still embarking on the same character-testing voyage stems from the very same Achillesâ heel that seems to come into focus whenever the season-to-date has gone awry.
Youth, youth and more wet-behind-the-ears youth.
The two sides rely on first-year starters at quarterback, both of whom â Isaiah DeSilva of Burrillville and Lincolnâs Spencer Desautel â are sophomores. That alone should tell you the dynamic of the rosters, where plenty of underclassmen are receiving their baptism-by-fire.
As Lincoln head coach Dave Waycott and his Burrillville counterpart, Gennaro Ferraro, have discovered this fall, youth is a double-edged sword in that itâs both a blessing and a curse. Both leaders of young men reiterated earlier this week that itâs been a joy to head to practice each day and work with a group that has refrained from using its current plight as a crutch to coast home for the duration of the season.
Itâs that youthful exuberance that has likely kept Waycott and Ferraro from letting each passing loss eat away at their insides, the belief that if the kids arenât feeling blue, why should the coaches?
âTheyâve been fantastic and keep saying, âWeâre going to get one,ââ affirmed Waycott about the collective psyche of his Lions. âThey all show up to practice and seem to have a good time. You have to be patient with them because theyâre learning the ways.
âItâs about putting in an investment,â Waycott continued, noting that he has had enough freshman bodies to conduct several scrimmages, with several members of the 27-player ninth-grade class having already acquired a taste of varsity ball.
Added Burrillvilleâs Ferraro, âThereâs not one person on the field who doesnât believe we canât win. I really believe that and so do the kids. They work so hard and itâs a pleasure to go to practice every day.â
Cutting a little deeper, each sideâs youth has yielded plenty of momentum-stalling, on-field instances that have resulted in uphill climbs. During last Saturdayâs 9-0 loss at Tiverton, Burrillville took the opening kickoff and marched from its own 41-yard line to the oppositionâs 1 in 13 plays. On the driveâs 14th play â a fourth-and-goal â DeSilva was stonewalled on a QB sneak that denied the Broncos a prime chance to seize any early-game momentum.
Later in the same contest, Burrillville pieced together a 13-play sequence that was halted prematurely due to a fumble.
âTypically the little mistakes we make, we just canât seem to recover during the game,â Ferraro said. âWe certainly learn about them in practice when we correct them for the next game. Itâs not like the kids donât know how to play; we have a great group of boys who want to play football the right way.â
Waycott has also found himself going back to the drawing board repeatedly, emphasizing the importance of paying attention to even the minutest detail. Case in point, a defensive penalty committed by Lincoln during last Saturdayâs 27-14 home setback to Narragansett awarded the Mariners a fresh set of downs. The infractionâs timing couldnât have come at a worse time, as Narragansett was set to settle for a field goal. Given a second chance, the visitors punched the ball into the end zone.
âIâve been telling the guys that our own worst enemy has been ourselves,â Waycott pointed out, âbut they havenât given up.â
When youâre relying heavily on young players, the importance of having quality senior captains cannot be underscored. While each schoolâs set of 12th graders will end their high school careers minus a chance at a Super Bowl run, Ferraro and Waycott noted that they deserve a ton of credit in refusing to let the current situation deteriorate and splinter out of control.
âA lot of the seniors, theyâve taken on a leadership role and have relished it,â said Waycott about a group that includes Oseh-lie Saine, Anthony Siou, Adam Petit, Giovanni Gray and Mark Barrett.
âWe have great seniors who lead by example,â remarked Ferraro about 12th graders Brett Correia, Steven McCormack, Matt Johns and Jacob Haggerty. âWhen they play well, we always have a chance to win.â
(As an aside, both mentors mentioned that only âtwo or three playersâ ended up turning in their gear and quitting, a low figure that further illustrates that the bonds between a coaching staff and his players can still function at a high level, even when struggles exist.)
A year ago, the Lions and Broncos each went 1-7 in league play. Lincolnâs lone win came at the expense of Burrillville, an 18-12 down-to-the-wire finish that Waycott and Ferraro believe will be the case when the latest chapter of this rivalry is written.
With Lincoln winless in five Division III games and Burrillville 0-4, thereâs no time like the present to put a halt to the misery.
âOur mentality is that weâre ready to win,â Ferraro boldly stated. âLincoln-Burrillville, itâs going to be the price of admission, for sure.â
Echoed Waycott, âIt doesnât matter what the record is when we play Burrillville; itâs always a dogfight.â
As for other clashes on tap this weekend, Cumberland can clinch the Division II-B regular-season title with a win Friday night at Tucker Field against a Shea outfit that seeks to keep itâs playoff hopes alive. The Clippers are 5-0 while the Raiders stand at 2-3.
Also in II-B, 3-2 St. Raphael visits 1-4 North Kingstown on Friday for another 7 p.m. clash; while in II-A, 3-2 Woonsocket welcomes 1-4 Chariho to Barry Field Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
In Division I, Tolman (2-4) looks to stretch its winning streak to three games when the Tigers travel to Cranston Stadium to face 1-4 Cranston West on Friday. In another matchup of teams winless against league foes, 0-4 East Providence visits 0-5 South Kingstown.
Finally, in Division IV, 2-3 Central Falls pays a visit to 2-2 North Providence on Saturday.