CRANSTON — In its 37 years as a varsity program, Shea High has copped a Division I-B championship in 1992, Large Division titles in 2002 and ’03, and a Division II crown three years ago.
Tomorrow at 7 p.m., the Raiders will battle for another state championship, but unlike their previous four titles, this one will be for all the marbles in the state’s top division.
The Raiders continued their spectacular inaugural year as a Division I team by punching their tickets to the Division I title game. They dominated play for most of the night and stormed to a 3-0 triumph over upset-minded North Kingstown High on Wednesday at Cranston Stadium.
“This is what we’ve been aiming for,” said Shea coach Pierre Ridore. “Ever since we started training, I told the guys, ‘If we didn’t think we could win in Division I, we would have stayed in Division II.’ Our goal was to go up and win it, and so far, we’re very happy with the season we’ve had.”
The second-seeded Raiders’ reward for their win is a third crack at unbeaten Barrington High (which was a 2-1 semifinal-round winner over fifth-seeded South Kingstown High) in a 7 p.m. showdown at Rhode Island College.
The Raiders (14-1-5) were 0-1-1 with the Eagles (16-0-4) during their duel for the Division I-East crown this season. Both teams battled to a 1-1 tie in their Oct. 2 meeting at Max Read Field, but the Eagles got the better of the Raiders in their Oct. 18 rematch at Victory Field, winning by a 2-0 score.
“I’m looking forward to playing them again,” said Ridore. “I told the guys, ‘Win, lose, or draw, this is the matchup I wanted.’ To me, we were the best two teams in the state this year in Division I and this is the way it should be, both of us playing for the championship. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Raiders’ underclassmen produced all the scoring. Their youngest starter, freshman midfielder Ienik Spencer, netted the only goal Shea needed late in the opening half, and sophomores Anildo Amado and Emerson Barros added the other goals in the second half.
And while they were clicking offensively, the Raiders also played a superb game on defense and had their back four of Joao Dias, Julio Ramos, Elvys Varela, and Issifou Kankarafou get the job done in front of goalkeeper Julio Garcia, who only needed to make three saves.
The sixth-seeded Skippers (8-5-7), who shocked third-seeded Bishop Hendricken in the quarterfinals, also played an excellent game defensively and received a handful of stellar saves by senior goalkeeper and co-captain Ben Jones (11 saves), but his effort alone couldn’t rescue his team from the Raiders.
While Shea controlled the tempo of the game and kept the action in N.K.’s end of the field for most of the night, it was N.K. which had the game’s first quality scoring opportunity.
With less than 15 minutes to play, Brian Roth nearly located the back of the net on a long throw-in by Ja’mhar Comena, but his 10-yard shot clanged off the right post and was quickly gathered by a Shea defender.
But the Raiders soon countered with their first score, when with 5:03 on the clock, Spencer redirected a 20-yard free kick by Ramos that he booted into a pack of players in front of the goal.
Amado’s goal came 12 minutes into the second half off a strong throw-in by Raider captain Gerson Gomes, who fired the ball near the mouth of the goal. Amado outleaped a group of players near the right post and headed the ball past Jones and into the net.
Four minutes later, the Skippers delivered another quality scoring threat on a 20-yard blast from the corner by Nick Ferguson. His shot sailed over the leap of Shea keeper Julie Garcia, but caught nothing but crossbar.
Things went from bad to worse for the Skippers less than two minutes later on Barros’ score, as he took a pass from Amado and blasted an 18-yard shot through traffic in front of Jones. It was his team-high 24th goal of the year.