Two men shaking hands in front of trophies.

Road to success for Central HS Football Head Coach Michael Washington – John Cardullo

by John Cardullo, sportswriter

Photo: Michael Washington being handed the head Coaching job at Central from Centrals former head coach Peter Rios- his former coach and mentor

For Central Football’s Head Coach Michael Washington, the road to success has been paved with a lot of Blood, Sweat – and Hard Work! But when you’re building a successful football program that’s the price you pay!

When you meet Central High School football Head Coach Michael Washington, you’re taken back a bit. His reputation in the game of football throughout the state is well known. Winning the Pop Warner National Championship while starring for the youth football Edgewood Eagles. A legendary and iconic football organization that has its roots go back to the early 1960s. Washington made the seamlessly easy transition to the high school ranks while starring at Central high school and going to play at the college level before returning to Central as a position coach, then offensive coordinator and finally its Head Coach.

Before we get to where he is now, let’s go back to where a 9-year-old Michael Washington began his football journey. A lifelong resident of Providence, Michael loved playing sports with his friends, basketball, baseball but it was the lure of football that he heeded the call and in 2004 he landed on the Edgewood Eagles. That’s where he met Eagles President and Coach George Lindell, it was Lindell who decided for any player interested in joining the Eagles would be assured that they would get a ride to and from practice and the games. Washington said, “this was a big deal for us, because we didn’t have to walk to and from practice at night, so playing for the Eagles was a safe place for us!” Excelling on the gridiron, Washington jumped past the “in between” junior teams. “I went directly to Pee Wees, Midgets, and Bantams. By going that route, I was able to play with slightly older players at a lightly heavier weight. So, basically, I was playing against bigger players.” For the slightly smaller Washington, what he didn’t have in size and bulk he made up with speed and determination.

The hard work paid off when his team under the direction of head coach Jessy Medeiros when to Florida to play for the National Pop Warner National Championship. “Medeiros was my coaching mentor,” Washington said. “He was intense but chill at the same time. I find that now, being a coach, I apply a lot of his style to my coaching style. There’s a bit of all my past coaches in what I do to teach and reach my players. Lindell, Medeiros, and former Central Head Coach Peter Rios, they are all there inside of me. I just must make what I learned from them and make it my own.”

At Central High School, an inner-city school best known for their basketball and track programs, football was always an afterthought. When Washington arrived, Central was playing Division 3 and was always had some success. Under Rios the football team began to make waves among the more established football powers. Washington found himself as a team leader from the moment he arrived at the high school. An offensive running back and defensive specialist, he would find himself on all the special teams where he led by example. Central began in Division 3 when Washington arrived in 2009 by the time his high school career ended, Central was a solid Division 2 power, losing the D2 Super Bowl in 2010 to Woonsocket and losing in the 1st round of the State Play-off’s and the following season to Chariho. Although the result was not what Central wanted, Coach Rios credits the success to those teams because of the team leadership that Washington displayed while playing for the Knight’s.

Entering the world of college football for Bemidji State University located Northern Minnesota was a jump that Washington was prepared to make, but a season ending ACL injury delayed his career. Returning home to rehab, Washington went to see how his old high school team which was in its final year in Division 2. The following season Central was going to go to the elite Division 1 and it didn’t take Coach Rios long before he convinced Washington to join his staff as a volunteer assistant. Soon he was running the Knight’s offense as the coordinator all while managing to get his college degree. But for Washington the coaching bug had bit him and he went all in. He also established his business, Recover Rhode Island, a sports rehab facility located in Providence. Washington went from a volunteer assistant to a paid coaching position for Central, and he was the Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator at the ripe old age of 24.

In 2018 and 2019, Central made it to the Division 1 playoff Semifinals. Looking forward to the 2020 season, the pandemic hit! Under the cloud of a season that would be cancelled, Washington kept the team together (or as together as social distancing would allow), working out in the weight room and the football classroom. The rumor began to circulate that the RI Interscholastic was making plans to have a football season in the early spring instead of its traditional Fall season. The hard work that Central put into a season that may never happen, paid off when the Knights beat the East Greenwich Avengers to win the Division 1 Super Bowl. Immediately after the team’s victory, long time head coach Peter Rios stepped down, and Michael Washington was named the new head coach.

For Washington and his new staff, the next season was right around the corner and the work began immediately. “There was a lot of things going on at the same time.” Washington said. “We won the Super Bowl, lost our leader, the next season was on the doorstep, and suddenly, I was the one in charge of everything! I was fortunate that I had a lot of support, from the school and the Central community. Athletic Director Michelle Rawcliffe was amazing to work with, the coaching staff remained intact with Peter Rios serving as a special assistant during the transition. The parents were very supportive, and the players were all in! This made it so much easier for me.” The 2021 season took place in the more traditional Fall season and Central returned to the Division 1 Super Bowl losing to the North Kingstown Skippers. For Central, the loss has only served to inspire them to get back to off season work outs and a new determination to get back to their third straight Super Bowl.

Sitting down with Coach Washington it was clear that his enthusiasm for the up coming season isn’t contained. “I am excited for this teams 2022 season. They work hard in the weight room, during the conditioning process and in out football “Chalk talk” classroom. I didn’t come here to be a head coach of an inner city high school football team; I came here to pick up from where Coach Rios left off and create a FOOTBALL PROGRAM! It is my job to get these players the best they can be both as athletes, but as students. Getting them onto college is my goal and if they go on to play college football, then I feel as if I did my job.”  

Looking ahead he states, “No team will out work us or be more prepared to play than us. The players on this team want to be successful, they want to be pushed and work hard. They know that when they commit to the Central program and embrace it, they will be more prepared for the road ahead. They also know that if they need someone to talk to, well they have my cell phone number and they know that I will always answer that call.” Washington concludes, “Central Knight pride doesn’t end at graduation it is a lifelong commitment, if you don’t believe me? I am a living example!”



John Cardullo, sportswriter