Brooker Sports Initiative: Cooney, Paye, Truss

by | Sep 15, 2023

Above: Arizona Cardinals punter Nolan Cooney during Week 1 game against the Washington Commanders Sept. 10. Photo by Caitlyn Epes/Arizona Cardinals

COONEY’S punting a plus in Arizona Cardinal’s loss Sunday to the Washington Commanders.

NOLAN COONEY, the first year punter for the Cards punted 5 times for a 47.0 average, putting two inside the twenty and having a long of 56 yards. Cooney, who averaged 54 and 51 yards per punt in two exhibition games and 46.6 in the third, looks like a real find for the hapless Cardinals. The East Greenwich High grad, who overcame cancer, went to prep school, then Syracuse,looks like he has found his niche in the NFL. We hope to see him for years to come.

KWITY PAYE (Hendricken) had three tackles, one assist and a sack. But, alas, his Indianapolis Colts fell 31-21 to the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars.

XAVIER TRUSS (Hendricken) showed immense blocking skills as Georgia opened up defense of their National Championship by beating Ball State 45-3. Truss is a Pre-Season ALL SEC second team choice and on the NCAA watch list for the Senior Bowl.

MARQUIS BUCHANAN (Classical), a red shirt freshman has hauled in two long touchdown passes in each of the University of Rhode Island’s first two games. Other Rhody high grads getting kudos from the URI staff are JAYLEN SMITH (Shea); GABE SLOAT (North Kingstown); EMMANUEL GOMES (Woonsocket); FREDERICK MALLAY (Mt. Pleasant) and ROCCO CILLINI (Westerly).

JASON ONYE (Hendricken) is getting his share of snaps as a defender for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, while former teammate JAKE PICARD is starting at center for the Villanova Wildcats. Another Wildcat, DYLAN POIRIER is emerging at UNH while BRIAN VAGANEK (Holy Cross) played in eleven games last fall for the Crusaders, and hopes to repeat that stint this year.

Having heard all the hype, I decided to take a look for myself, and check out

UMD quarterback DANTE AVILES-SANTOS (Cumberland) and receiver ANGEL SANCHEZ (Hendricken). Tho’ opponent Nichols only provided resistance for a half, DA-S constantly put the ball on the mark at 45-50 yards and Sanchez was there to grab a few. Both boys are garnering pro attention.

EG’s CARLOS GREENE has moved to the UMass Dartmouth Corsairs after stints at URI and Cortland State. The local boy is working to get his way into the lineup. In high school (BH), Greene ran a 100 meter 10.7; a 6.86 60 meter dash and a 40 yard time of 4.47. Only a junior, Carlos has 3 years of eligibility left for UMD.

Endicott’s MATT LICCIARDI (EG) has 12 tackles and a sack in 2 games with the Gulls. He was named a Captain for the 2023 season to go along with a list of Conference Athletic and Academic awards.

Several Rhode Island High school gridders are already getting college attention.

DANIEL ROSE (Davies Voke) already has an offer from Temple. DAVID RODRIGUEZ (Mt.Pleasant), only a junior has some 30 schools interested; LARRY GAILLOUX (Classical) has a preferred walk-on offer from URI. If he is as good as former Teammate MARQUIS BUCHANAN, who is showing his talent at Rhody, it should be no problem. JUSIN DENSON, who graduated from La Salle and is now at Wyoming Prep in Pa., has a scholarship offer from Michigan State.

It’s hard to fathom that some of the “big guns” at LaSalle and Hendricken are not gathering attention, seeing as those two schools have turned out some top-notchers in recent times. Expect to see JAMEZELL LASSITER (LaSalle) and EDDIE BUHLER (NK) now at Phillips Prep going on to college Saturday afternoons.

JOEY ACCIARDO (Johnston) the backflip in motion gem of a few years ago is seeing some time as a defensive back for Santa Monica College (Calif.). Young Joe also has gymnastic, performance and acting chops he can present out in LALA Land as he eventually hopes to break into acting or performing of some kind. The 5-10, 160 lb former Panther has shown a myriad of talents and it won’t be a surprise to see him catch on in TV or the movies.

RIP: DAVID R.C. BAKER, 84, a prototypical work horse fullback from the ‘50s, whose blocking led the way for Avenger backs at EGHS as they won a Class C title in ’56.

He helped one back score a full scholarship to a Southwest Conference school. Believed to be the only Rhode slander to do so.  Later, Baker played for the Hawaii Marine team and the championship (RI SEMI-PRO LEAGUE & SOUTHEASTERN MASS. League) East Greenwich Townies.

Note: Though not a football player, WILMA BRIGGS, also from EG, passed last week. She was known for being the only girl of her time, playing RIHS baseball, and later played in the Women’s Professional Baseball League (A League of Their Own). She was 92.

Coach’s Tip (plus a couple of stories) for today’s RIHS coaches: In watching early season grid games I have noticed more than several players with their T-shirts sticking out from underneath their game jersey. When that star player is breaking away for the game winning score AND GETS TACKLED by that T-shirt (or his hair, that fanny towel or his chains), remember what I tell you now. Sure I will remind you. I have seen it happen.

Another point. Pads are there for a purpose. Also noticed several players wearing the new Bermuda shorts look. NO KNEE PADS! A patella fracture or patella tendon tear mean at least a year missed and COULD mean career end. Coaches, insist your players wear ALL their pads. Knee pads never stopped Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders, Bo Jackson or Herschel Walker from running roughshod.

I know. I know. You’re going to say a lot of pros (and D1 players) don’t wear certain pads. BUT, they are there. Your kids still have time to develop and get there. Injuries happen in football (ask Aaron R.) – let’s not help them get any.

This year alone five players (# college, 2 pro) have gone down with patella injuries.

Story #1: A coach I knew told me this one. His team was behind by 5 points with a few minutes to go. His back breaks loose and is headed for a sure touchdown that will win the game. He’s at the 30, 40, 50 and suddenly there is movement around his game pants. He is at the 40, 30, 20 and suddenly his pants start to fall. At the 10, they go around his ankles and trip him up. He falls flat at the 5. Game over. My friend’s team loses.

Seems that at halftime the kid had loosened his belt and tie strings at pants front and had forgotten to tighten them back up. A small detail, but one that cost a win.

Story #2: For want of a nail a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe a horse was lost. For want of a horse, a rider was lost. For want of a rider, a king was lost. For want of a king, a battle was lost.   For want of a battle, a war was lost. For want of a war, a country was lost. ALL because of a NAIL! PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL(s). At home. At work. In football. In Life!!!!

That’s it for now. Want to give shout out to coaches, former players and anyone who loves football? The Providence Gridiron Club is starting up again with a slate of six dinners and a brunch.

CALL Bob Izzi, club president, at 401-738-4393 or [email protected] and get some tickets for one of the events at least. The club can use your support and you might really like it. Get some teammates to go with you. Enjoy a night out.

This release is brought to you by The Brooker Sports Initiative (Bruce Mastracchio) free of charge to coaches, players, officials, administrators, TV stations and anyone with a love for the great game of football.

Bruce Mastracchio played football and bleeds football still.

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Robert (Terry) Bergeron
Robert (Terry) Bergeron
September 17, 2023 9:20 am

Great column, Bruce, combining wisdom, stories, local personalities and memories. I remember Dave Baker playing in that ’56 season. Watched from the sidelines one of the Avengers’ wins that year. Thank you.

Joan Chadwell
September 18, 2023 3:37 pm

Good to see you writing again. Always doing something for others. Thanks, Bruce.
Joan Larke Chadwell/Chip Chadwell – Jacksonville, FL

September 27, 2023 8:37 am

Great Article! Thanks Bruce

Bruce Mastracchio
Bruce Mastracchio
March 2, 2024 1:38 pm

Bruce is still bleeding. No footballs coming out, but a lot of blood.


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