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Itâ€™s hard to believe, but the midway point of the high school season is this weekend.
And in this state, the third weekend of October usually means two things -- a heavy dose of non-league games for Division II teams, and some interesting matchups in the other three divisions.
Two teams holding onto their playoff hopes are included in these divisional matchups, North Smithfield and Central Falls, and there will be plenty of interest in their respective â€śmust-winâ€ť contests.
For the Northmen and the Warriors, they sit outside the Division IVâ€™s playoff picture at 1-2 and tied for fifth place in the eight-team league. With half of the divisionâ€™s squads automatically punching their tickets to the postseason, three losses (and maybe a tiebreaker or two that goes the other way) could mean no football come December.
The Northmen will visit the leagueâ€™s only winless team, the Providence Country Day/Juanita Sanchez/Wheeler co-op squad, in a 1:30 p.m. duel on the Knightsâ€™ East Providence campus, and the Warriors will also face a team below them in the standings, Hope (1-3), at 6 p.m. on their Perez Field complex on Higginson Avenue.
The areaâ€™s two other league games of local interest are winless Tolmanâ€™s Division I affair against undefeated Barrington, set for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Eaglesâ€™ Victory Field, and a Division III game (also tonight at 7) between Middletown (3-1) and Lincoln (0-4) at the Lionsâ€™ Ferguson Field.
The rest of the schedule are non-league affairs, including tonightâ€™s historic game in Cumberland -- the Clippersâ€™ first-ever game on its new Tucker Field synthetic turf. The defending Division II champions (3-1 in Division II-B) will host Mount Hope (2-2 in Division II-A).
Another Division II crossover game that is shaping up to be the game of the week is Saturday at Barry Field. The divisionâ€™s only unbeaten team, Woonsocket (4-0 in Division II-A), will host Rogers (3-1 in Division II-B) in a 1:30 p.m. showdown.
Also on Saturday, Division II-B Shea (2-2) visits Division IV North Providence (2-0) in a 1:30 p.m. affair, and Division III Burrillville (1-3) takes one of its longest bus rides of the year to battle Division IV Exeter/West Greenwich (4-0).
St. Raphael (2-2 in Division II-B play) has a bye week.
Hereâ€™s a brief look at some of the â€śmust-watchâ€ť games:
Hope at Central Falls
This week of practice couldnâ€™t have been an easy one for the Warriors, who turned in a sloppy performance against Scituate, yet nearly squeaked out a victory before losing by a 20-18 score.
And the Warriors will surely need to put forth a better effort against the Blue Wave, who blasted the PCD co-oppers, 38-6, and their new quarterback, Matt Santiago, who threw three touchdown strikes in that win.
A victory keeps the Warriors afloat in the playoff hunt, but after that...
â€śItâ€™s going to be a very difficult climb,â€ť added C.F. coach Jeff Lapierre, â€śespecially going to EWG in two weeks, playing North Providence, who is on fire right now, and North Smithfieldâ€™s always been a tough battle for us. Itâ€™s all uphill for us.â€ť
All eyes will be on C.F. junior tailback Jason Araujo, who had the best game of his high school career last weekend, running for 138 yards on 24 carries. What will he do for an encore tonight?
North Smithfield at PCD/J.S./Wheeler
After suffering back-to-back losses to North Providence and EWG, the Northmen took full advantage of a bye week and come into their game against the Knights a well-rested and prepared squad.
They also enter this game with a four-game win streak over the Knights, outscoring them by a grand 169-40 total, and thereâ€™s no reason to believe that N.S. canâ€™t add to that dominance this weekend. The Knights have been outscored 106-30 in their three league losses.
Following this game, the Northmen will have another bye week, and after a non-league game against Plainfield High of Connecticut on Nov. 1, the schedule gets a lot tougher, with league games against Smithfield (2-2), C.F., and Scituate (1-2) standing in their way of a return trip to the postseason.
Rogers at Woonsocket
Could this be a possible playoff preview? The Villa Novans, who have outscored their opponents by a 73-7 margin en route to their 4-0 mark, will have their hands full against a Rogers team that is among the division leaders in points scored (108) and coming off a big road victory two Fridays ago over North Kingstown (3-1) and a double-overtime triumph last week over Shea.
Two players the Novansâ€™ defense will have to keep close tabs on are running back Issac Garcia, who has scored six touchdowns and is nearing 1,000 yards on the ground for the season, and quarterback Quraan Bostic, who has torched teams with his arm (seven TD passes) as well as his legs.
Woonsocket senior tailback Dâ€™Andre Thomas, like Araujo, had a big game last weekend, running for 161 yards (66 coming on a touchdown run) in a 20-0 victory over Mount Hope. Another strong showing from Thomas, as well as from tailback Will Andino and quarterback Miguel Raymond (seven touchdown passes), will surely give the Novansâ€™ cause a spark.
Mount Hope at Cumberland
After playing their first two home games at Bryant University and Pawtucketâ€™s Max Read Field, the Clippers can now walk across Mendon Road and enjoy their new turf surface, and a victory against the Huskies would be the perfect way to celebrate their return home.
The Clippersâ€™ 15-game win streak against Division II competition came to a screeching half in last weekâ€™s 36-14 loss to North Kingstown, but they will look to right their ship against a Huskies team that suffered rough losses in two of the past three weeks, including their defeat to the Villa Novans.
The Huskies have done the bulk of their damage this season on the ground behind a multi-talented backfield thatâ€™s led by Jesse Raiola. If the Clippers can contain Mount Hopeâ€™s ground game and score early and often, they should be in a very good position to win this contest.
Shea at North Providence
Itâ€™s rare to see a game against a Division II squad and a Division IV team drum up a lot of interest, but the Raidersâ€™ meeting with the Cougars could be an entertaining one, especially with N.P. ruling its division in the early going and Shea looking to return to its winning ways after back-to-back losses to West Warwick and Rogers.
Expect both teams to do their bulk of their damage on the ground, with the Raidersâ€™ multi-talented backfield, led by quarterback Tyâ€™shon Ashe, looking to control the clock against the Cougars and their talented tailback, Bevin Ingram, who has scored six touchdowns and ran for over 500 yards in just three games. An additional note on the Raiders -- they have scored four touchdowns on special teams this season.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24