Townies, Stringfellow reboot football restart

New EPHS head coach, players begin what all hope is a “real” season

By Mike Rego
Posted 8/24/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — After playing a shortened slate out-of-season last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Providence High School football team took to the field earlier this week for …

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Townies, Stringfellow reboot football restart

New EPHS head coach, players begin what all hope is a “real” season

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — After playing a shortened slate out-of-season last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Providence High School football team took to the field earlier this week for what all involved hope is a return to some sort of normalcy as the Townies prep for the 2021 campaign.

This fall should almost mark a reset for new EPHS head coach Jon Stringfellow and his staff, who in their “first” season were limited by timing and a depleted roster as they took over the program in time for the 2020-21 term.

“It is more real,” Stringfellow said of the sentiment that surrounds the program as the preseason began. Stringfellow took over for former head coach Jay Monteiro last year and, of course, steps into the same position his Hall of Fame father Bill held in the 1970s and 80s.

“It’s a lot more exciting because of the numbers we have this time around,” Stringfellow continued. “Last year was a struggle. We were just trying to survive. At the end I think we had 24 kids on the roster. This year, now there’s a sense of building something for the future. We had between 55-60 kids the first day of practice. We’re able to break them into two groups, varsity and JV. It’s exciting.”

The Townies went 0-4 in their one-off spring season earlier this calendar year. Between opt-outs, injuries and players being ineligible due to grades, Stringfellow never had a full roster from which to choose or make adjustments. Still, it did afford both coaches and players an opportunity to become a bit familiar with each other and the schemes the new staff wanted to implement.

“Last year was a learning experience. We learned about some of the kids as coaches and they learned our behavior,” Stringfellow said. “We didn’t have any depth. There wasn’t a JV season, which meant some of the younger kids didn’t get the reps they normally get. This year the numbers are good. The kids that played have the spring under their belts, so they kind of have a better idea of what’s going on.”

Even as a complete season is planned, the lingering effects of the pandemic remain present. Many health and safety protocols are still in place, including quarantining for some who contract or are exposed to the virus.

The Interscholastic League shortened the fall preseason by a week because the actual 2021 spring seasons for sports like baseball and softball went well into June. With that in mind, football teams will play a full Injury Fund game, four quarters, instead of the usual half of action. The Townies travel to Macomber Field next Thursday night, Sept. 2, to face the Central Falls/Blackstone Valley Prep co-op at 5:30 p.m.

On a historic note, the Townies will christen the completed athletics stadium on the new high school campus with their first-ever home game there against neighboring Barrington, September 10, coached by another EPHS legend Sandy Gorham.

And one more item of interest, for the first time in the modern history of the program, at least, if not ever, the Townies will be wearing red helmets this season instead of white. It’s an element of “fun” Stringfellow is hoping to bring to the team, and a change, along with a new set of uniforms, met enthusiastically by the players.

“Hopefully this year we’ll all be smart enough to do the right things with the protocols so none of us have to quarantine and be out 10 days or two weeks. Right now, things are as normal as they can get. The coaches and I are excited about the numbers we have and the leadership coming from the kids who were here last year,” Stringfellow said.

He added, “The good thing is the kids are excited about playing and there’s a lot of excitement around the new school opening and the new stadium. We have a heckuva group of freshmen and sophomores coming in. We’re a heavy underclassmen team, so things are pointing in the right direction. It’s really exciting. Our goal is to give the kids a good experience playing football. If we can keep the numbers up and the attitudes positive, then we’re going to doing that. Everything else kind of takes care of itself.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.