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McGair: 'Tuesday Night Lights' returns Woonsocket; changes to Donaldson Tournament

November 16, 2012

For the second time in the last four years, Woonsocket High athletic director George Nasuti (left) and head coach Carnell Henderson (center) will see the Villa Novans take the field for a Division II semifinal-round playoff game under portable lights on Tuesday, Nov. 27 in the friendly confines of Barry Field.

A little of this, a little of that …

In the eyes of George Nasuti and Carnell Henderson, the Woonsocket High football team has earned the right to compete under the lights at Barry Field.
The Novans’ designation as prime-time players is twofold. By virtue of last weekend’s heart stopping 29-28 overtime quarterfinal triumph against St. Raphael coupled with Central upsetting Johnston, Woonsocket qualified to host a Division II semifinal-round contest on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Of course, gridiron clashes at Barry Field are reserved specifically for Saturday afternoons, given that the facility doesn’t have lights. Yet when Nasuti started to inquire about the availability of portable lights earlier in the week, the Woonsocket athletic director did so with his fondness for the 2012 Novans in mind.
“These kids like to have people watch them,” Nasuti remarked on Thursday, when the task of lighting up Barry Field became set in stone. “They want to play on what’s left of our field, on dirt and in front of a home crowd. It’s what they deserve.”
Henderson took Nasuti’s words a step further when the head coach remarked, “Going on the road to play a home game isn’t really a home game. Not only have the kids earned the opportunity, but so have the fans.”
Come November 27 at 6 p.m., the multi-purpose sports complex located off Smithfield Road will come alive with a nighttime football contest that will decide one-half of the Div. II Super Bowl field. The looming Central-Woonsocket clash will join the annals as being the third evening playoff game to take place at Barry Field over the past four seasons.
In both prior instances, the Novans made good use of their turf decked out in illumination. The first time, Woonsocket took down Coventry, 33-21, in the 2009 Div. II semifinals. A year later, Woonsocket rolled past Central by a 34-14 count in the Div. II quarters.
Ironically, the Villa Novans went on to capture the league title in each season with this year’s club undoubtedly hoping for a similar preview-of-coming-attractions theme when the Knights come into town the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
While this isn’t Nasuti’s first “lights for a night” rodeo, by no means was this a simple solicitation. Just to cover his bases, Nasuti filled out an application for Woonsocket to play Central a few miles down the road from Barry Field at North Smithfield’s artificial-turf surface.
The inquiry Nasuti made to United Rentals yielded good news, with the Smithfield-based company confirming that they had enough banks of lights to lend Woonsocket. A total of 16 tall and skinny light fixtures were reserved and will be delivered to Barry Field the day before the big game.
The 16 light apparatuses represent an increase of two more than what Woonsocket utilized during the 2010 playoff game against Central. Under R.I. Interscholastic League guidelines, the minimum standard is six light towers stationed on each side of the field with the height requirements of each to fall between 25-30 feet.
“I’m considering having five on each side and three in each end zone,” is the arrangement Nasuti has in mind. “It should light up (Barry Field) fairly well.”
There will be a small army present at Barry Field making sure the lights are situated just right. The last time Nasuti oversaw such a project, he didn’t depart the grounds until around midnight. The hope is that enough lights are up and running to allow the Villa Novan coaches and players to conduct a walk-through practice.
Renting the lighting for a football field isn’t cheap, hence why Nasuti is mobilizing a campaign to solicit contributions that help defray the cost. The lights themselves cost roughly $200 per set.
“We hope the community comes out and we’ll figure out the bill later,” says Nasuti, adding that he prefers to stay away from the money raised during last spring’s fundraiser for Woonsocket athletics. “We’re looking to recoup the funds through private donations and a possible fundraiser at some point.”
For those interested in helping Woonsocket’s “Tuesday Night Lights” project, contact Nasuti at (401) 585-6177 or

Revamping a local staple

For the past 16 seasons, the James W. Donaldson Memorial Tip-Off Tournament has served as a boys’ basketball gathering designed to pay homage to the longtime Tolman High teacher and coach.
Mainstays Tolman and Shea have always made up half of the typical four-team field, yet in the event of the RIIL instituting a stricter game cap and narrowing the window in which these multi-day events can take place, the idea of seeking out two additional teams has become a more taxing chore. Such an instance resulted this time around, though all is far from lost.
Instead of spreading the Donaldson tourney over two nights in early December, Tolman has designated its final home game of the regular season as the Donaldson Scholarship Foundation Game. In fitting fashion, the February contest will include crosstown neighbor Shea.
“We’ll make more money for the scholarship (fund) in this game than we do during the tournament because our expenses get so high,” Tolman athletic director John Scanlon pointed out.
Right now this one-game format is on the table for this season only, though Scanlon didn’t rule out the possibility of designating Tolman’s home game against Shea in future seasons as the night set aside to remember a local legend.
For those wondering about another locally based boys’ hoops tournament, the Dennis M. Lynch Jr. Memorial Tournament is on tap for Thursday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club.

Taking their talents on the road

The three Lincoln High seniors who signed national letters-of-intent to play Division I athletics earlier in the week all understood that how they performed on their various travel teams and at showcase events through the years was instrumental in getting them noticed on a larger scale.
It’s a point worth noting, especially when taking into account that baseball player Nick Zammarelli and softball teammates Lindsay Mayer and Emily Bouthillette have enjoyed strong high school careers. With college sports operating like a big-time business, coaches understand that the best way to grasp a firmer handle on a potential recruit is to view him or her in person and against top-notch competition.
With that in mind, it’s important to separate the perception surrounding high school athletics and the type of out-of-state events Zammarelli, Mayer and Bouthillette have participated in. The showcase and travel team outings have a litmus test feeling to them while in high school circles, there’s pressure to perform well, but not to the extent that it will make-or-break one’s desire of playing at the next level.
Bottom line? High school athletics should be viewed as a source of achieving school pride with your peers, not as a defining means to catch the fancy of some college scout.

Here and there

Cumberland senior and individual state champion Trevor Crawley will look to add to his special season when he participates in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Cross Country Championships a week from this Saturday in Van Cortland Park, located in the Bronx, N.Y. … Cumberland and Lincoln high schools will pool together their resources this winter to form a girls’ hockey co-op team. Mentoring the young ladies will be longtime hockey staple Dick Ernst. … The Thanksgiving morning football game featuring Ponaganset at Burrillville will air live on Ocean State Networks on Cox Ch. 5 and high-definition Ch. 1005. Kickoff is at 10 o’clock.

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