CF’s perseverance pays off
After enduring three difficult years, seniors rewarded for sticking it out
CENTRAL FALLS — Chande Nobre’s high school football career wasn’t going the way he envisioned.
The Central Falls senior – and the rest of the Warrior seniors – just finished a miserable 2021 where the Warriors didn’t play in the spring pandemic season because of lack of numbers and the endured an ugly, winless junior campaign.
Instead of going through the motions and mailing in his final season, the Warrior decided to take a stand. In January, just six weeks after another stinging defeat to rival Lincoln on Thanksgiving eve, Soares-Nobre and the Warriors were in the weight room training for one more shot at redemption.
No one outside the program knew what was happening, but the rest of the state found out in September what had been going on for the previous eight months.
Led by Nobre, senior receiver Alex Maia and punishing back Ty O’Connell, the Warriors hard work in the offseason paid dividends with an impressive regular season and an appearance in Saturday night’s Division IV Super Bowl against No. 1 Smithfield at Cranston Stadium.
“Really, it was just all the losing that got to me and my teammates,” Nobre said prior to Thursday’s practice at the Higginson Avenue Sports Complex. “Once we got into the weight room there was no looking back. We knew that we wanted it and we wanted it bad and now we are here. We found that perseverance from growing up playing football and all my brothers back there [in the huddle] hate losing and we wanted to be a winning team.”
“Going from not winning a game last year to doing what we did this year, I just can’t explain it,” Maia, the team’s most versatile player, said. “Just walking around school, everyone was down on us and that did wear on us. We took all of that personal and this being our last year, we made winning our one goal.”
When the Warriors found out they were dropping down from Division III to D-IV in realignment, veteran coach Jeff Lapierre put the projected schedule on the board and the Warriors started breaking down opponents like the Sentinels, talented Davies Tech and Exeter-West Greenwich/Prout, which went to the D-IV Super Bowl last season.
Led by a talented group of seniors, the Warriors exceeded even Lapierre’s expectations in his final season on the sideline after coaching in his fourth Super Bowl.
“We had a Super Bowl banquet Wednesday night and the one word I kept saying about these kids is resiliency,” Lapierre said. “Our seniors have just been resilient and I don’t think they know how much resiliency they have shown all these years. When you’re in something, you just survive. When you look back at it, you just think ‘How the hell did I do that.’”
Every season has provided Central Falls’ deep senior class a different life lesson. And while they didn’t always succeed or handle it the right way, the Warriors found a way to eventually persevere and play in the program’s first Super Bowl since Dutchie Arroyo led the program to the 2018 title.
The year after Arroyo and Leo DeVeiga graduated, the program was still playing all of its games on the road because Macomber Stadium, which had been deemed contaminated since 2017, was still a year away from being ready to host a game.
Even though the squad started a number of freshmen – including Maia and fellow receiver/defensive back Andreni Maldonado – the Warriors only missed the Division III playoffs by one game. The Warriors, whose only ‘home game’ was a homecoming contest against Narragansett at nearby Max Read Field, suffered a fifth straight Thanksgiving eve defeat to rival Lincoln.
“I feel like we’re here because we love the sport,” Maldonado said. “That passion that we have with our friends and brothers since we were small. Most of us have played together for a while and we realized we can’t give up on something we’ve wanted our whole lives. We dreamt of this. We want to play in the Super Bowl. We want that ring.”
The world shut down in March of 2020 for the pandemic, but when the world started to open up again, Central Falls wasn’t quite ready to start playing football. Only CF and Woonsocket sat out the truncated spring campaign, which set the program behind when the 2021 Division III campaign started in the fall.
The Warriors actually played well in its first three games of the season against Mt. Hope, Narragansett and Middletown, but the squad let go of the rope in its first game of October against Chariho. A 42-6 defeat to Chariho was followed by defeats on the field and defections off it.
The season ended with a thud – a 40-12 defeat to Lincoln at Ferguson Field.
Everyone in the program needed a few weeks to clear their heads, but once January rolled around, Nobre, Maia and the rest of the team’s dedicated players were in the weight room using the embarrassment of the previous few months as fuel for their final campaign as a Warrior.
“We knew we had to put it in the work and it started in the weight room,” Maia said. “Even out of the weight room, we all hit the field together – sometimes without the coaches. It feels good to be here because it’s been four years. For us to come back and do it again, I just hope we can finish it.”
“Trying to keep the team tight last year was a struggle, but I tried me best as a leader,”
Nobre said. “This year, everything has stayed tight because we started the right way and we built on it. It feels good to be where we are.”
A non-league defeat to East Providence was followed by three straight dominant Division IV wins to start the season. Without Maia, who suffered a knuckle injury in September, the Warriors suffered their lone league defeat, an 8-7 double-overtime defeat to Smithfield. The Warriors started a new winning streak the following week against Davies.
And now, they get another shot at the Sentinels Saturday night before ending their careers with a chance to beat Lincoln for the first time in nearly a decade.
“I think after last season the guys just said ‘We’re not going to go out this way,’” Lapierre said. “They’ve proven they mean business. We’ve had ups and downs, not necessarily on the field, but they’ve thrived. I told the guys a couple of weeks ago that if our season had ended then, it would’ve been an awesome way to send me on our way. We just wanted to be competitive every week and no matter what, this has been successful.”