EAST PROVIDENCE — By the numbers, the ones in the end that have the most meaning, the recently completed 2023 campaign for the East Providence High School football team wasn't too great. But …
EAST PROVIDENCE — By the numbers, the ones in the end that have the most meaning, the recently completed 2023 campaign for the East Providence High School football team wasn't too great. But the Townies were actually quite close to being a real factor in the Division II ranks and it showed in the respect the league's coaches showed to the players with their postseason awards.
East Providence finished with just a 2-4 record in its Division II-A games, 4-7 overall, and missed the playoffs. However, anyone paying close attention remembers the Townies held late-minute, fourth quarter leads in two of those — against Cranston West and Mt. Pleasant. If...and that's always the key word...if EP was able to hold onto those advantages the perception of this past fall, at least from a league standpoint, would be quite different.
Even still, those in the know pegged eight Townies for Rhode Island Football Coaches' Association accolades, led by a trio who were selected first team All-D-II-A: seniors Steven Clark Jr. and Anjai Izquierdo as well as junior Isaac Fox.
Clark, the bull of EP's backfield, led the Townies in rushing this season, including a career-best 183 yards rushing on 16 carries in their non-league victory over Moses Brown. Izquierdo was a mainstay on the team's offensive line at left guard. And Fox, who was named as the division's best returner, showed explosiveness not only in the kicking game, but as a dual rushing/receiving threat out of the backfield.
Three more Townies were chosen for the division's second team: sophomore quarterback Jacob Duarte, junior right tackle Machar Francis and senior left tackle Grant Peoples.
Duarte was thrust into the starting varsity role after the departures of both players ahead of him on the depth chart, one to graduation and the other to transfer. His inexperience was obvious at the start of the season, just like his positive growth in the all-important role was later in the year.
"Jacob Duarte got better every game we played and it showed in the last couple especially. He got a lot better with his reads and we were able to keep line pretty much together to protect him, which gave him confidence as the year wore on," EPHS head coach Jon Stringfellow said after the Townies' season finale, 17-14 loss to LaSalle on Thanksgiving Day.
Two more Townies were tapped for third-team league honors, both on the defensive side of the ball: junior linebackers Jordan Carl and Colin Roche.
"The future looks pretty good at this point. We have our quarterback in Jacob. We lose some key pieces on offense, but we have Foxy back along with Lucas Santa Cruz and Brady Platt in the backfield. Machar Francis is coming back on the line and Tyler Dicecco at tight end, Justin Jardine in the kicking game and Colin Roche is back on defense, so we have a nice nucleus of kids to build around," said Stringfellow.
He added, "We'll take a couple weeks off then get right back at it. The kids who play other sports, we'll work with them around their seasons, but the kids who just play football we'll get them in the weight room, work on some other things and get right back at it."
In addition, six players earned recognition on 2023 Rhode Island Football Coaches Association All-Academic Team for their efforts in the classroom: juniors Darius Davis, Dicecco, Francis, Roche and Ty Messier along with senior Ryan Travassos.
Said Stringfellow, "The success of any program starts in the classroom. Academics always comes first."
Not to go unnoticed as well, the program also announced in-team honors: the EPHS Football Captain's Award to seniors Clark and Izquierdo; and the EPHS Football Townie Award to senior lineman Ashton Arredondo.