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SMITHFIELDâ€”For 81 of Rhode Islandâ€™s best high school seniors Saturdayâ€™s 2013 Senior All-Star Classic was a chance to lace up the cleats one last time before moving on to the next chapter in their lives.
â€śIt was awesome. I missed it,â€ť Narragansettâ€™s Dillon Sheridan said. â€śPlaying with a whole new group of kids I never had played with before was a good experience.â€ť
Sheridan and his East All-Star teammates ultimately emerged with a 21-14 victory at Bryant Universityâ€™s Bulldog Stadium as two former Portsmouth players â€“ running back Matt Greenman and quarterback Bobby Chavous â€“ stole the show in leading their team to victory.
For players like Sheridan and Exeter-West Greenwichâ€™s Tony Tavares it was more than just who won or lost though, but rather seeing how they matched up against the stateâ€™s best.
During league play Sheridan â€“ whose Mariners compete in Division III â€“ and Tavares â€“ whose Knights play in Division IV â€“ were usually the biggest and strongest players on the field.
â€śItâ€™s a whole new respect for the game,â€ť Sheridan said. â€śAt Narragansett I was one of the larger people but out here youâ€™ve got to hold your own.â€ť
Saturday the two linemen were anything but the biggest, yet each player held their own against the tougher competition.
â€śIn this game it was a lot faster and everything was a lot quicker,â€ť Tavares said. â€śItâ€™s definitely different having bigger guys out there but itâ€™s more of a challenge. I enjoyed it.â€ť
While Saturdayâ€™s game marked the end of brilliant careers for so many, for North Kingstownâ€™s Alex Madoian it was just the beginning.
The Skippersâ€™ senior tight end will spend the next four years at Bulldog Stadium as he will suit up for coach Marty Fine and Bryant next season.
â€śGetting to play at the field Iâ€™m going to be at for the next four years was surreal,â€ť Madoian said. â€śIt was awesome.â€ť
Madoian will not be the only one who played in Saturdayâ€™s game to continue his career at Bryant though, as Cumberlandâ€™s Mitchell Baxter â€“ the defensive MVP from the contest for the East â€“ will join the former Skipper in Smithfield.
â€śIt was great getting to know him over the past few weeks,â€ť Madoian said. â€śI knew him a little bit before, weâ€™re going to be rooming together here at Bryant and to see him make those big plays and get excited with him and know thatâ€™s what itâ€™s going to be for the next four years Iâ€™m so excited.
â€śâ€¦Iâ€™m looking forward to meeting my future teammates but to know that Mitch is going to be there pushing me and as roommates weâ€™ll be pushing each other all the time.â€ť
Of any area athlete Madoian made the biggest impact in Saturdayâ€™s All-Star game.
The West took the early lead in the game less than one minute in as a quick three-and-out from the East and a poor punt gave the boys in blue excellent field possession at the East 27-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage LaSalle quarterback Anthony Francis found former teammate Tyneil Cooper for a touchdown for give their team a 7-0 advantage.
A little less than eight minutes later the red squad answered as Greenman returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown to knot the game at seven.
The West quickly reclaimed the lead as a 20-yard touchdown scamper from Tolmanâ€™s Mory Keita just before the end of the first quarter made the score 14-7.
The two teams spent the bulk of the second quarter alternating possessions until the East finally broke through on a screen pass on third-and-11 from Chavous to Baxter that went for a 19-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed though, and the West clung to a 14-13 lead at the break.
There were significantly less fireworks in the second half but a little over three minutes into the third quarter the East scored what proved to be the game-winner as Chavous found Greenman for a 77-yard touchdown pass.
The East then went for two and Chavous found Madoian for the two-point conversion to push the lead 21-14.
Then with 3:14 to go in the game â€“ after blocking an East 27-yard field goal attempt â€“ the West mounted a last-ditch effort on a drive that began at their own 10-yard line.
After two fourth down conversions and another on third-and-10 the West had the ball at the East 13-yard line with just eight seconds to play.
On first-and-10 Francis tried to throw a pass to the end zone but Madoian was there to deflect the ball at the line with three seconds remaining.
â€śI didnâ€™t expect to play defense at all,â€ť said Madoian, who played defensive end at NK but will likely only be a tight end at Bryant, â€śbut the coaches wanted me to play there and I was happy to play there.â€ť
Down to their last play Francis floated a jump ball into the end zone but it was knocked to the ground by an East player to seal it.
Also selected to Saturdayâ€™s game were North Kingstownâ€™s Alex Burke, Coventryâ€™s Brandon Parenteau, East Greenwichâ€™s Eric Lauro and Charihoâ€™s Mike Pagliarini, Hayden Prior, Jesse Parenteau and Brandon Browning.