EAST PROVIDENCE — Coming off one of its most trying seasons in recent memory, the East Providence High School football program is seeking to have a bounce back effort this fall in the Division I ranks.
The Townies suffered through a 1-7 season in the state’s top tier a year ago, by far the least successful campaign East Providence has had under the guidance of Hall of Fame head coach Sandy Gorham. Gorham, now in his 21st season as the helm, has led the Townies to seven Super Bowl games and five state championships among numerous other postseason appearances.
“I’ve told everybody that’s asked I think we’ve closed the gap against some of the teams in the league, but how many more wins that leads to I don’t know,” Coach Gorham said. “I feel that we’re going to much more competitive than we were last year. And hopefully as the year moves along we’re able to win some of those games we lost last year.”
In 2013, Coach Gorham directs a relatively inexperienced East Providence roster. A core group of Townies enjoyed great success as youngsters, leading an East Providence Mohawks team to the Pop Warner national championship tournament. Many of those players, however, will be getting their first taste of high school varsity action this fall.
Through two full non-league games and half an outing in the Injury Fund, the Townies have yet to record a victory, but they have already shown the marked improvement about which the coach spoke, especially on offense where they’ve scored seven touchdowns in that span as opposed to only one in the same amount of action a year ago.
“We’re playing a lot of young kids. They needed these games to get ready for the regular season,” Coach Gorham said. East Providence opens its Division I campaign Friday night in Warwick against three-time reigning state champion Bishop Hendricken at 7 o’clock.
“Hopefully we’re better prepared than we were last year at this time,” the coach continued. “We played some pretty good teams in St. Ray’s, Woonsocket and Mt. Pleasant. We had an opportunity to win each game, but we just weren’t able to put the final nail in the coffin. But that’s what happens when you playing with young kids, and not just young kids, but inexperienced kids at this level.”
Among those inexperienced varsity players is junior quarterback Trystan Casey, who will be the Townies’ first string signal caller for the first time this fall. Speedy and in possession of a quality throwing arm, Casey is the decision maker in East Providence’s option attack. He’s joined in the backfield by senior fullback Austin Baptista and junior tailback Jaevin Milhouse. Coach Gorham said sophomore runners Justin Johnson and Aaron Amaral have also earned their way into the backfield rotation during recent practices.
An important missing piece, however, is senior Jasiah Hatch, the likely starter at tailback who suffered a right leg injury in preseason practice and is expected to miss a significant amount of time.
The Townies’ receiving corps includes junior RaeQuan Kelly, senior John Costa, junior Edmilson Andrade, sophomore Charles Hazard, junior Brian Lima. Junior Tyler Lockard and junior Jon Hernandez are the tight ends.
On the line junior center Matt Couitt (5 feet 8, 240 pounds) anchors the East Providence offensive line at center. Senior Adriano Martins (6’3,” 216) and sophomore Tyler Benedetti (5’11,” 220) play left tackle and guard, respectively. Junior Dajon Pereira (6′, 225) starts at right tackle with senior Leon Edmonds (6’1,” 270) at right guard. Juniors Tony DeSimas (5’9,” 225) and Corey Cinquegrana (5’10,” 230) also expected to see significant time.
The Townies, as they did in the backfield, suffered a significant early season injury up front on both sides of the ball after senior tackle/linebacker Kyle Barboza (5’10,” 190) hurt his right knee on the very first offensive play from scrimmage in the locals’ non-league game against Woonsocket, Sept. 13. Barboza, however, is expected to play in the league opener this week, according to the coach.
“We’re going to move the ball. We’re more athletic on offense than we were last year. The defense is still a concern. We’re still giving up the ‘big’ play, which has hurt us the last couple of years. We have to fix that,” Coach Gorham said.
Many of the same players from the offense will turn around and play significant minutes on defense. Pereira, Edmonds and junior Mark Bianco (6’1,” 325) start on the line with Hernandez and sophomore Jayden Chase (5’9,” 170) at the ends. Baptista, senior Collin Costa (5’10,” 190) and sophomore Mario Peoples (5’10,” 170) are the linebackers as are juniors Jaxin Smith and Jefferson Ferreira. Casey, Kelly and junior Raekwon Shepard along with Edmilson Andrade and Anthony Andrade are the defensive backs.
“We’re a young team. The kids are working hard. They have great spirit,” Coach Gorham added. “The kids are going to play hard. I think we’re going to be an exciting team to watch. I hope people stay with us, don’t give up on us early, because we’re going to get better as the season goes along.”