When Bristol was ‘Soccer capital of Rhode Island'

Bristol High School brought soccer to town 50 years ago, and quickly became the standard

EastBayRI.com ·

Before the book closes on the high school soccer season, let’s take a trip down memory lane, back to the fall of 1966, when schoolboy soccer was about to become a varsity sport at the former Bristol High School

A little more than 50 years ago, Bristol High School began its quest to be the best soccer team in the state. Taking its cue from the late Vincent J. Santo and Alphonse Almeida, the two joined forces in helping bring varsity soccer to the school.

It doesn’t seem possible that a half-century later, people still talk in glowing terms of the success of the Bristol High soccer program…long after the school merged with Warren High School to become what is now known as Mt. Hope High.

In 1966-67, Mr. Santo — Bristol’s high-energy and innovative athletic director, who had just returned to his native Bristol after working in Connecticut — and Mr. Almeida — the popular Bristol High Portuguese teacher and soccer coach — saw their dream become a reality when the Colts officially entered the Rhode Island Interscholastic Soccer League. 

Vin Santo, a former three-sport star athlete at Colt Memorial High many years earlier, was determined to expand Bristol’s varsity programs from its existing three sports (baseball, basketball and football). Soccer was among the first on his list.

In those days, soccer was pretty much an international entity, although five years earlier, the newly-formed Bristol Sports Club introduced the game locally from a semi-pro level.

On the high school level, neighboring Barrington had already made an instant smash by capturing the league’s first three state championships in 1965, ‘66 and ‘67. Then, it was Bristol’s turn, with back-to-back state titles in 1968 and ’69.

“If you knew how to speak Portuguese, you made the team,” noted Bristol’s first goal keeper, John Peter Cabral, referring to Mr. Almeida’s crafty player selection process. “Coach Almeida was a great guy. Every kid loved him. When we communicated in Portuguese, some of the other guys on the team wondered what the heck we were talking about. We didn’t even have a cheerleading team that first year. Members of the football team used to cheer us on.”

Teammate Mario Silva was another one of Bristol’s greatest players during those formative years. With Charlie Carreiro, Faustino Lima, Lou Pimental, John Peter Cabral, John Troiano, Carl Benevides and Ray Durate, to name a few, the Colts were on their way to stardom.

“It’s funny how I got involved with the high school soccer program,” said Mario Silva, who would eventually become a two-time all-state midfielder. “I was prepared to go out for football in 1966. When I found out they were starting soccer at the high school, I changed my mind. The Bristol Sports Club had a junior soccer program and I played with them. That was a great experience for me as I entered high school.”

As many of his teammates will confess, Alphonse Almeida was the glue that held the team together. He had a wry sense of humor, but he knew the game inside and out.

“Coach Almeida was a fun guy,” said Mr. Silva. “He was determined to have a successful program. We practiced at Colt State Park that first year because our new home field wasn’t ready yet. But, as time went on, we progressed as a team and played pretty well that first season. We finished with a .500 record and that was very encouraging.”

Lou Pimental was a halfback/right wing on the 1968 and ’69 Colt teams, and said Coach Almeida made the game fun for every player.

“Mr. Almeida was just a great guy,” he said. “Everybody loved him. We all got along. This was a brand new sport at the school. There were no youth leagues in town back then. This was it. We had a great time.”

Alphonse Almeida’s Colts finally hit the jackpot in 1968 and ’69 when the Colts won consecutive state championships, preceding another trip to the state finals in 1970. Along the way, Bristol produced a number of star players including Paul Tabor, Joe Mello, Joe Rosa, Mark Donovan, John Paul Ramos, Jim White, Armando Ferreira, Bobby Ferro, and more. 

The beat continued into the 1970s, when Assistant Coach Bill Josephs took over the head coaching reins. With players such as Herman and Herbie Mello, Gilly Neves, Manny Gomes, Fred Constancia, Anthony Milhomens, Stacey, Harry and Gabe De Castro, the Colts won 11 or more games a season from 1972 through 1976, including a state championship in 1975.

During his seven years as head coach, Mr. Josephs won a school record 89 games and had a state record winning mark of 88 percent. He won three Metropolitan division titles and one state crown.

“Those were great years,” said Mr. Josephs in a recent interview. “We had some of the greatest talent this town ever produced. It was a pleasure coaching these kids.”

Following in Coach Joseph’s footsteps was Tony Teixeira, who had a number of outstanding teams, including the 1979 and 1980 squads that won state titles.

“When you have talented players like Charlie Couto, Arthur Cabral, Tony Antunes, David DeMello, Mark Matrone , and Tony DeMello, it makes your job a lot easier,” he said. “These kids were tough, and they always gave you 100 percent on the playing field.”

Coach Teixeira also had a string of outstanding seasons, winning at least 10 games a season five times in the state’s toughest division. Like Coach Almeida and Coach Josephs before him, he was a multiple “Coach of the Year” award recipient.

When you start naming players whose pedigree are among the best in the state’s history, you sometimes overlook a few names. That’s probably the case here, but the one common denominator is that every one of these kids played an integral role in making Bristol High School the soccer capital of Rhode Island.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 18.0px Helvetica}

With all the success Bristol High School enjoyed throughout its glorious history, it all reverts back 50 years ago to the late Alphonse Almeida. He’s the one that started it all. He knew the basics of the game and his players responded in such quick fashion, they easily became the new darlings of the RI Interscholastic Soccer League, and a team to be reckoned with for decades to come.

Bristol High School, Bristol soccer


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here