SRA's Correa finds his way on gridiron
St. Raphael Academyâ€™s Charles Correa (7) breaks through the West Warwick High defense to pick up some yardage during last Saturday afternoonâ€™s game at Maznicki Field, a 21-12 victory by the Saints.
The book on Charles Correa is that heâ€™s a basketball player, a pretty darn good one at that.
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Basketball is his passion, his lifeblood. Hopefully basketball will help this youngster land a college scholarship.
Why play football then? Why tempt the fates and risk the future for a sport known for its cutthroat and harsh nature? All it takes is one misstep on the field, absorbing one teeth-rattling hit, one crunch administered by a big, big guy, to change everything.
A junior at St. Raphael Academy, Correa doesnâ€™t need to be reminded about laying it all on the line. Initially he viewed football as a means to stay in shape and pass the time before the start of basketball season.
Now? Based on his gridiron exploits to date Correa should be viewed more than just a basketball standout who happens to also strap on a helmet and shoulder pads. Pure and simple, Correa has blossomed into a football player. The excitement he brings every time he touches the ball is akin to grace under pressure â€“ how Ernest Hemingway famously defined â€śguts.â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t think it (meaning football) was going to be this serious,â€ť remarked Correa following SRAâ€™s 21-12 win at West Warwick last Saturday. â€śNow Iâ€™m part of this team so I just canâ€™t quit now.
â€śI donâ€™t even know how I do it,â€ť Correa added. â€śI just play.â€ť
Maybe itâ€™s that simple approach that allows Correa to thrive in a sport that at times leaves him feeling apprehensive, with good reason since basketball recruits are starting to bang on his door. Through five games heâ€™s scored nine touchdowns and racked up 488 rushing and receiving yards, stats that only begin to scratch the surface of what he brings to the table on a weekly basis.
As he demonstrated against the Wizards, once Correa finds and exploits a seam in the defense, heâ€™s generally off to the races. His two touchdowns came on runs of 52 and 48 yards respectively, both unfolding under similar carry-the-action-to-the-edge-before-the-afterburners-kick-in circumstances. West Warwickâ€™s defense was helpless in each instance, Correaâ€™s No. 7 jersey nothing more than a blur as he crossed the goal line due to out-distancing the would-be tacklers.
Certainly those lengthy scampers caught everyoneâ€™s attention and represent why St. Raphael improved to 3-1 in Division II-B. Thereâ€™s just more to Correaâ€™s game than streaking down the field like a bolt of lightning, a scary proposition that teams that have faced SRA to date will tell you is one of the reasons why this team is so difficult to scheme against.
With the Saints in danger of going three-and-out late in the third quarter against a Wizards team that had closed to within two points, Correa lined up as a wideout. Given that he was facing 1-on-1 coverage, it was assumed Correa would run a fly pattern down the field and look up to see that quarterback Julian Diaz had sent the ball his way.
Instead Correa pulled the wool over the Wizardsâ€™ eyes by running a quick slant route, a play that covered 35 yards and saw the SRAâ€™s version of a Swiss Army Knife break two tackles on his way to pulling the team out of a third-and-12 predicament at its own 30-yard line.
Another key third-down reception came with 7:17 remaining and SRA still clinging to a 14-12 lead. Opting for some creative play calling, head coach Sassi had Diaz toss the ball off to Zach Mays. This time Correa was running straight as an arrow before breaking toward the sideline at the last possible second. Cognizant of his surroundings, Correa jostled for position while keeping in mind where his feet were. His toes were precariously close to straddling the white line, but with the sideline official closely monitoring everything, Correa caught the ball in-bounds for a 26-yard gain.
Such a play demonstrates just how far Correaâ€™s football IQ has come since he joined the St. Raphael football team as a sophomore. It also drives home the point that Correa features the type of athleticism that allows him to fit right in, regardless of the sport.
â€śThatâ€™s just being special,â€ť Sassi remarked about the two critical catches Correa made. â€śThatâ€™s nothing weâ€™ve taught him.â€ť
What about Correaâ€™s interception in the second quarter in which he out-jumped West Warwickâ€™s Domenic Bisceglio? Or how he pried the ball away from ball carrier Ross Coffua in the fourth quarter, the second Wizards turnover of the contest in which Correa was directly responsible for forcing?
â€śWeâ€™re very fortunate for that the fact he plays football this year given the basketball player he is,â€ť was the appreciation Sassi expressed in having Correa by his side.
While he gives off this vibe that football and all its nuances come naturally to him, thereâ€™s a part of Correa that wonders. The golden ticket that basketball represents is always in the back of his mind. On a good day heâ€™s 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, measurements on par with the point guard position he mans during the winter months.
On the football field, those same measurements make Correa a little guy in a big manâ€™s game. After the Wizards knocked him back for a six-yard loss, an assistant coach promptly implored Correa â€śto trust his legsâ€ť when asked to run through the heart of the defense.
â€śEvery time I go out there, whether itâ€™s a good team or a bad team, Iâ€™m always nervous because of basketball,â€ť admits Correa, whose football background includes several seasons with the Central Falls Panthers. In 2009 he was on the programâ€™s midget football team that competed in Orlando for national honors. â€śIâ€™ve been playing football for a while, but I never took it seriously.â€ť
Nowadays Correa is sincere when the topic centers on his football role with the Saints. He declined to talk about the basketball offers heâ€™s received, citing the time and place to discuss said matter isnâ€™t now. Itâ€™s football season, he reasons.
â€śI like football. I donâ€™t love it, but I have love for the game of football,â€ť said Correa. â€śI love basketball, but I have love for the game of football.â€ť
Hence why Charles Correa is no longer viewed as a basketball player who simply plays football.