SMITHFIELD—For 81 of Rhode Island’s best high school seniors Saturday’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.
“It was awesome. I missed it,” Narragansett’s Dillon Sheridan said. “Playing with a whole new group of kids I never had played with before was a good experience.”
Sheridan and his East All-Star teammates ultimately emerged with a 21-14 victory at Bryant University’s Bulldog Stadium as two former Portsmouth players – running back Matt Greenman and quarterback Bobby Chavous – stole the show in leading their team to victory.
For players like Sheridan and Exeter-West Greenwich’s Tony Tavares it was more than just who won or lost though, but rather seeing how they matched up against the state’s best.
During league play Sheridan – whose Mariners compete in Division III – and Tavares – whose Knights play in Division IV – were usually the biggest and strongest players on the field.
“It’s a whole new respect for the game,” Sheridan said. “At Narragansett I was one of the larger people but out here you’ve got to hold your own.”
Saturday the two linemen were anything but the biggest, yet each player held their own against the tougher competition.
“In this game it was a lot faster and everything was a lot quicker,” Tavares said. “It’s definitely different having bigger guys out there but it’s more of a challenge. I enjoyed it.”
While Saturday’s game marked the end of brilliant careers for so many, for North Kingstown’s Alex Madoian it was just the beginning.
The Skippers’ 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.
“Getting to play at the field I’m going to be at for the next four years was surreal,” Madoian said. “It was awesome.”
Madoian will not be the only one who played in Saturday’s game to continue his career at Bryant though, as Cumberland’s Mitchell Baxter – the defensive MVP from the contest for the East – will join the former Skipper in Smithfield.
“It was great getting to know him over the past few weeks,” Madoian said. “I knew him a little bit before, we’re going to be rooming together here at Bryant and to see him make those big plays and get excited with him and know that’s what it’s going to be for the next four years I’m so excited.
“…I’m looking forward to meeting my future teammates but to know that Mitch is going to be there pushing me and as roommates we’ll be pushing each other all the time.”
Of any area athlete Madoian made the biggest impact in Saturday’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 Tolman’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 – after blocking an East 27-yard field goal attempt – 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.
“I didn’t expect to play defense at all,” said Madoian, who played defensive end at NK but will likely only be a tight end at Bryant, “but the coaches wanted me to play there and I was happy to play there.”
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 Saturday’s game were North Kingstown’s Alex Burke, Coventry’s Brandon Parenteau, East Greenwich’s Eric Lauro and Chariho’s Mike Pagliarini, Hayden Prior, Jesse Parenteau and Brandon Browning.