When you are from the smallest city in the smallest state in the country, the odds are not in one’s favor to be champions of anything. Those chances become even smaller when a team is forced to play all road games because their field was shut down.
However, the Central Falls High School Warriors football team had to deal with these exact circumstances. If Vegas was taking bets on which school would be the RIIL 2018 Division III champion, no one would touch the Warriors with a 10-foot pole.
These young men weren’t just playing every game on the road, but their practices were held on a field littered with obstacles.
“We are currently replacing a drainage pipeline at Higginson Field to help with the sinkholes and we will be putting new loom and seeding the field this year,” Parks and Recreations Director Tracey Giron said.
Each player put their best foot forward and always came to practice ready to work. But even with positive attitudes, it wasn’t lost on some the real challenges of playing on Higginson Field.
“This was our home field at one time, but other coaches would complain about the conditions and refuse to come back and play us here, one of our kids even blew his knee out at practice,” head coach Jeff Lapierre said.
The Warriors home field, Macomber Stadium, has been shut down since July 2017. This is the second straight year of all road games for Central Falls.
“I remember getting the call from the Parks and Rec department saying ‘Bad news, you can’t use Macomber Stadium,’ athletic director Anthony Ficocelli said. “The schedules were all done and I had to scramble to get our home games turned into away games with the other teams on the schedule. Everyone was great and very helpful in assisting us.”
While testing the nearby river, contamination was discovered at Macomber Stadium. While the contamination was not a harmful level, the school board made the decision to not use Macomber for any sporting events.
“Communication about the situation to the appropriate parties was lacking at that time. No one understood the length of time it would take for testing to be done,” Giron said. “We’re waiting longer on the testing from the Department of Environmental Management and the Narragansett Bay Commission. We’re hopeful for a new field done and installed by the 2019 season. We deserve better, our community deserves better and the mayor is pushing urgently.”
News that the team would be forced to play a second straight season on the road would’ve been a big obstacle for most teams. Not for Central Falls.
“Nothing can stop these kids,” Lapierre said. “I made a mistake this year and we had to forfeit a game, it was totally my fault. We actually won the game 41-6 and would’ve had an undefeated season. Our first practice back after the game, I had to deliver the news to the team about the forfeit, they treated it like just another hurdle they had to overcome to reach their goal.”
“When Coach was done telling us about the forfeit I was like, ‘Let’s get back to work!’ We all just went back to practice like nothing happened,” wide receiver Leo DaVeiga said. We felt like nothing could stop us.”
Lapierre knew it was going to be an amazing group when he called the first meeting of the 2018 season. He asked all the players to write a football goal and personal goal. They had their goals back in less than an hour, and the team was committed to getting the title.
“My happiest moment was when I told all my old Central Falls Panther friends, ‘we weren’t leaving here without the trophy,’” running back Omar Soto said.
Most of this team has been together since they were kids, together on the Central Falls Panthers, the town’s youth football team.
One player’s abilities have really stood out and been recognized through this past season here, Dutchie Arroyo. Arroyo has obtained 1st team All-Division, Division 3 Back of the Year and was a Providence Journal First Team All-State selection.
Arroyo talked about a memorable experience at practice when he was run over by his teammate, Tyreese “Elf on the Shelf” Gomes.
“They all tried hitting me in practice, I would just yell that I had more touchdowns than everyone!”
“Tyreese rolled out the red carpet and Dutchie was the carpet!” Jonathan Acosta said.
Warriors football has endured a rough couple of years. This nomad football program has had to wander between stadiums and deal with fighting both on the field and off.
Only a battle-tested, strong-willed program would be able to navigate through these issues and bring a championship to their community. And that’s exactly what they did, defeating a strong Pilgrim High School team in the Division III Super Bowl by a score of 14-10.
It isn’t all bad for Central Falls. The city has raised $900,000 toward the reconstruction of Macomber Stadium. The turf field will have lights and the plans were just finalized.
Upcoming Central Falls teams will have an exciting new stadium to play in, but they will always tell the story of the “road” Warriors overcoming the odds to achieve their dream of being Super Bowl Champions.