The Cranston West football team certainly has the skill to make some noise in Division I-A this season, as the Falcons return several key pieces from their team in 2016, a season in which the young Falcons went 2-5 in league play.
West got its first look at game action on Friday against arguably the state’s top team this season in La Salle, and the Rams came away with a 21-7 win in the abbreviated Injury Fund matchup. However, West head coach Steve Stoehr noted that his team was a bit banged up for that game, and he expects his squad to only get stronger and faster as the season progresses.
“We have some high expectations, but we’re going to start slow,” Stoehr said. “Last week (against La Salle), our speed wasn’t where we wanted it to be. We’re banged up, but we’ll get better.”
That glimpse of play against a team like La Salle allowed West to walk away knowing what it needs to do to compete at the highest level.
“We have to start off faster,” Stoehr said. “I thought we maybe should’ve thrown the ball a little bit more. We just need to get better in the offensive line. They looked tired to me.”
Senior quarterback Nick Dionizio will be a key player for the Falcons, returning after breaking his collarbone in the season opener against Portsmouth last September.
Despite the time off, Dionizio should be able to pick up where he left off seamlessly with his already-instilled knowledge of the offense and its personnel.
“Right now he’s throwing the ball OK,” Stoehr said of Dionizio returning as his starting quarterback. “We just have to put people around him who can make catches. When he’s on, he’s very good. When other people are off, he tries to do a little too much.”
Senior Will Such will resume his duty as West’s starting running back after a strong junior season in 2016, earning Second Team All-State honors.
“Such is a between the tackles type of guy, and he has some speed,” Stoehr said.
At receiver, Cam Harris, who filled in for Dionizio at quarterback last season, will be one of Dionizio’s top targets in the passing game this season.
“He has looked great in the preseason,” Stoehr said of Harris. “He’ll run the ball some, but he’s more of that receiving type.”
A sophomore, Cam Alves, who starred on the freshman team for the Falcons last season, will also bring some versatility to the West offense this fall. Alves can line up as a receiver and carry the ball out of the backfield, so he will definitely play a key role in the Falcons’ offense.
“He’s a good player and sees the field well,” Stoehr said of Alves. “He’s strong for a little kid and blocks very well. I wish my guards had his tenacity.”
Matt Carvalho, another sophomore, should also make a difference at wide receiver.
The running backs will be guided by a strong offensive line highlighted by seniors Matt Beyer and Thomas Napolitano.
On defense, Such, a linebacker, will lead the way.
In addition to Such, Dimitri Bradley, Jose Noboa, Nick Poulos, Harris, Jeff Wardle and Evan Degaitas will all make key contributions.
West will host Marshfield High School from Marshfield, Massachusetts, on Friday evening at Cranston Stadium at 7 p.m. in a non-league showdown. Even though the game won’t mean much in the long run, Stoehr is hoping for his team to take the opportunity to compete and continue to get better.
“Hopefully we tackle better, we didn’t tackle well against La Salle,” Stoehr said. “We need to play faster. We’re still trying to find kids who can help us along the way. We’re looking for a little depth.”
The Falcons will open league play when they host Central at Cranston Stadium next Friday at 7 p.m.