East Providence Rebuilding a Team the BFS Way
The youngest squad in nine years took East Providence High School to a state championship
By Kim Goss
Published: Summer 2003
East Providence High School in East Providence, Rhode Island, has a rich history and tradition in football equal to any school in all of New England. Prior to the 2002 season, the Townies had been to four state Division I championship games since 1995, winning two of them. Kids in East Providence grow up dreaming of playing football to the cheers of thousands of enthusiastic fans that consistently jam the stands at the high school games. Last year, however, the Townies were facing what appeared to be their toughest challenge.
East Providence High School had only five returning starters, two on offense and three on defense. With only 15 seniors to provide leadership, the 2002 squad was the youngest team that Head Coach Sandy Gorham had coached while amassing his 88-22 record in his nine years with the Townies. And because the previous class, which had finished 9-4 overall, had been a senior-dominated team, many of this year’s seniors hadn’t even played on the JV team, and a couple had no playing experience at the school! Gorham and his coaching staff were faced with essentially rebuilding the entire team, and they knew this meant a big commitment to an off-season conditioning program.
“We have always had a well-organized, reasonably well-attended off-season weight training program. We knew that in order for us to maintain the success we’ve experienced in the recent past, we were going to have to take our off-season conditioning program to the next level,” says Coach Gorham. “When the previous season ended we met as a staff, and the consensus was that we needed a more comprehensive, balanced program—one that could improve not only our players’ strength but their athleticism as well. We wanted a program that was based on good physiology, sound training principles and no gimmicks. One that emphasized goals, both team and individual, and hard work. After some discussion, we knew that BFS was the way to go.”
In the past, East Providence High School had purchased a considerable amount of BFS equipment and had introduced some of the BFS principles into their off-season training program, primarily the importance of the parallel squat and the core-lift principle. But they had not made a total commitment to the BFS program. This time it would be different. “This past season, before we started our off-season program, we bought multiple copies of the Total Program book and the Total Program videos,” says Gorham. “We asked ourselves, Why try to reinvent the wheel? We have something here that is in place, is proven, it works; so we jumped into the BFS program completely.”
“All our coaches were committed to educating themselves about the BFS Total Program,” says Gorham. “Everything from the core lifts, auxiliary lifts, plyometrics, lifting chains, steps to speed improvement, and utilization of the set-rep logbook. We tried to prepare ourselves for the off-season training program like we would for a game. And they followed the program to a T—they were not allowed to do anything in the weight room that hadn’t been written down for them.” Assuring that the team worked out hard and trained properly in the weight room were Gorham’s assistant coaches John Gendron and Jay Monterio. Says Gorham, “I’m involved, certainly, but I gave them the ball and they went with it—it’s something they really love to do.”
The enthusiasm that the implementation of the BFS program generated was, says Gorham, “incredible.” “Many times people within earshot of the weight room would come by to see what all the hootin’ and hollerin’ was about. They would stick their head in to see someone breaking a record in one of the core lifts with all his teammates surrounding him, encouraging, cheering him on, and helping him achieve his goals.” To add even more to the enthusiasm, every personal record would culminate in the ringing of a special bell in the weight room, signifying that a record had been broken.
“Because all the kids were on the same program, they all experienced the same victories and struggles, and this fostered great empathy for their teammates and great team morale,” says Gorham. “Our kids are just so excited to get into the weight room every day—they want to break records and keep setting new goals.” In fact, during one major snowstorm that forced the weight room to close for the day, several players came up to Coach Gorham to express their disappointment they would not be able to lift.
Another factor that helps motivate the Townies is the desire to please their fans. “We have terrific fan support. I think people would say without question that Friday night at Pierce Field, which is where we play, is an outstanding evening. We have 150 kids in the band, we have between the cheerleaders and flag choir another 50 kids—it’s a big following.” In addition to packing the home stands, on away games they usually outdraw the team they’re playing.
Despite the shortage of experienced players this year, East Providence finished the regular season with an 8-2 record, which earned them a place in the playoffs. Gorham describes the semifinal game as a “good ol’ fashioned mud fest” against St. Raphael Academy. The game was highlighted by senior fullback Jamie Silva’s 173 yards and three touchdowns on the slippery turf and a 26-21 victory. Finally, they found themselves in the championship game against the number-one seed, La Salle.
La Salle was riding a 24-game winning streak that included two state championships. When the game began, the more than 8,000 fans in attendance saw La Salle pick apart East Providence’s five-man line until the Townies found themselves facing a 21-point deficit. But the Townies’ conditioning came through and the defense stopped La Salle from scoring again. Likewise, the offense did its part as their spread-option attack shocked La Salle with 35 unanswered points, winning East Providence the state title, 35-21.
On the bus ride home, the atmosphere was electric. “On any bus ride anywhere after that kind of achievement, kids sing and chant a lot of different things,” says Coach Gorham. “This year a chant came from the back of the bus that we’ve never heard before. It was shouted with so much enthusiasm that you just felt the gratitude and belief the kids had in what they were proclaiming. It was the longest and loudest chant on that memorable day. It was “BFS! BFS! BFS!”
In the post-season awards, four Townies earned first-team all-state honors, with Silva earning a full scholarship to Boston College. With all his players’ achievements and his own coaching success, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Coach Gorham pursued a job at the college level. But he says, “I’m very happy where I am right now. I think I can have a greater impact on kids’ lives at the high school level than at the collegiate level.” Coach Gorham enthusiastically acknowledges his players’ commitment to the BFS program as a major force behind their team’s greatness. “Two players who were starters on the offensive line hadn’t even played football the previous year, and three of the other members on the offensive line weren’t even able to start on the Junior Varsity team. They got started with BFS. BFS made these young men effective players and allowed them to make a major contribution to our team.
“I remember reading a quote attributed to the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry. He said, ‘Coaching is getting players to do what they don’t want to do so that they can become what they’ve only dreamed of becoming.’ With the BFS program it doesn’t take much to get them to want to do it. There are immediate rewards: they are breaking records right away, automatically establishing new goals. It’s so exciting and reassuring to know that there is a resource like BFS available to coaches to help them guide
their kids to become the players ‘they have only dreamed
What the Players at East Provide