After four straight season finishing at or below .500, the East Greenwich High School football team took a giant leap in 2012. They posted a 7-1 record during the regular season, finishing second in Division III, before advancing to the championship game where they came up just short against undefeated Middletown, losing the Super Bowl 33-21.
Though they will be returning some top end talent in All-Division selections quarterback Andrew Miner and running back Carney Crawford, the core of last year’s team was built around an experienced group of seniors that had seen plenty of action in their time wearing Avenger red. There will be a much different look this year for East Greenwich, who still may boast the talent, but might be lacking in experience when compared to 2012.
“Last year, we had a more experienced team and that makes a big difference,” said Avengers coach John George. “Some of these young guys look good in practice, they worked hard in the weight room in the offseason, but getting up to game speed is something different. You can’t really simulate in practice Friday night under the lights, a little bit of pressure on you.
“That was a veteran group. Not only an older group, but they had a lot of game experience. They went through a 3-7 season where they grew up and took their lumps, so they were ready to step in and knew the drill. These guys, the biggest thing they don’t have is game experience.”
Despite key losses, behind their 1,200-yard passer and the Division III Back of the Year, the building blocks are in place for their offense to be the strength for East Greenwich. It will be a revamped offensive line, however, blocking for Miner and Crawford, with graduation leaving that as the biggest void George had to fill. Juniors AJ Turchetta and Cam Waitkun, and seniors Matt Santos and Chris Sgrignari all saw varying levels of playing time last year for East, but will be leading the group expected to step in and anchor the line.
The Avengers suffered a similar setback on the other side of the ball, graduating the entire middle of their defense, losing both starting defensive tackles, two inside linebackers and free safety.
Truchetta, who saw significant time on defense last year, and Santos will be looked to fill the void on the inside of the defensive line, while Dillan White and Hendricken transfer Jake Batista have “looked terrific” playing linebacker so far through training camp, according to George. Senior Christian DiCecco and sophomore Egan Reale are poised to man the free safety position.
The new talent has impressed and George has liked what he has seen throughout the preseason. Offense may be their strength, but East should still be a well balanced squad and, for all they may lack in game experience, their coach sees no reason to not believe in the strength of the program and that the Avengers cannot make another run at getting back to the championship game.
“Our goal for the season is to get back to the playoffs and then try and make another run at it,” George said. “I told the kids that any team can have a good season. You get a bubble of good athletes and they roll through and you win some games, but we’re trying to build a good program and be competitive every year and be playing for a playoff spot every year.
“That’s our goal as a program and hopefully the kids have bought in and are ready to go. … I think we’re going to be fighting for a playoff spot.”
The Avengers will play their annual Injury Fund game on Saturday, their final preseason dress rehearsal before the regular season, when they travel to Curtis Corner Middles School in South Kingstown to take on Division II Chariho in a 5 p.m. kickoff. They will open their regular season at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 13, welcoming Division IV Exeter-West Greenwich to Carcieri Field.
EG will play the first game on their Division III schedule at noon on September 21 when they visit Ponaganset High School.