The year was 2007 and the Saint Raphael Saints were 13-0 and Super Bowl Champions under the leadership of Coach Mike Sassi and the All-Star performance of Stanley Dunbar.
Fast forward to 2021 where the worst pandemic to hit the world is just starting to loosen up and high school football is being played in the spring. Teams are only getting a five game season and some teams and players opted out. Where a past Rhode Island football player is coming into his own and leading his team into the playoffs against his alma matter and former coach on their home turf!
Coach MIke Sassi has been the head football coach at Saint Raphael‘s Academy for over 20 years. Sassi’s Saints have been one of the more dominant programs, as a whole, over that time period. A Saints alumni, Sassi has a tremendous amount of pride in his school, program and players. Admittedly one of his top five all-time players was Stanley Dunbar. Coincidentally Dunbar, the new head football coach at Westerly High School, will be leading his Bulldogs into battle against his former coach on Friday night.
”I am very proud of Stanley and how he cares about all Rhode Island football players succeeding, ” said Sassi
Sassi is referring to Dunbar’s work other than coaching to help RI kids get exposure with Breakthrough Football Academy. Sassi also thinks that Saint Ray’s helped to instill the right morals in his players then and now.
“we work hard to help shape all of our student body at Saint Raphael’s, I respect Stanley now just like I did when he was 15.” said Sassi
Coach Dunbar was not shy in expressing what being a Saint meant to him. Talking about all of his relationships and bonds that he values from attending Saint Raphael’s. Dunbar was also very complimentary of his new school and football community in Westerly.
”Football is important in Westely. Pre-Covid times, when the Bulldog’s are playing on Friday night, you can find the whole town at the stadium packing it in.” Said Dunbar
2007 was a great year for Dunbar, Providence Gridiron Club Player of the Year, undefeated season, Super Bowl champ (even though he was on the sideline injured). With all of that Stanley had a different memory that stands out the most.
”We beat Lasalle by three points on a goal line stance, they fumbled it on third down, I think we were one of the best teams to ever go through Saint Ray’s.” Said Dunbar
I Asked both coaches for a little insight to a couple players to watch and their thoughts on the game, here is what they said;
Sassi: watch Moses Mues, Andre Dipina Grey and Napoleon Debarros. When we kick off on Friday night, the gloves are off.
Dunbar: watch MIke Garafalo and Aaron Perez. I know me, I’m not going into this game to lose.
No matter what happens Friday night, this will be a game for the history books. Sassi and the Saints with the speed, Dunbar and the Bulldogs with the size. Coach vs Player, Saint vs Bulldog.
Saints vs Bulldogs , Friday night, 6pm Max Reed Field.