NARRAGANSETT — The softball field at Narragansett High School doubles as a parking lot for big events, and it was full on Saturday night.
The buzz is still here for North Kingstown High School football, even on the road – and so are the Skippers.
With their new home turf still to be completed, North Kingstown hosted its non-league season opener against Portsmouth at Narragasett’s Jim Zepp Field and delivered a performance that largely matched the buzz, while leaving room for improvement. The reigning Division I Super Bowl champions scored on their opening drive, dominated defensively in the first half and pulled away when Portsmouth made a push for a 41-20 win.
“It was good,” head coach Joe Gilmartin said. “They got out here and got challenged a little bit, got punched in the face a little bit. I thought they responded pretty well. We ran to the ball pretty well for the most part. Just a couple of breakdowns.”
A year ago, North Kingstown’s 56-14 win over Portsmouth in the opener announced its entry into the state’s highest division, a move that couldn’t have gone much better. After winning the D-II title in 2017, the Skippers lost just one game en route to winning the second-tier crown. Its only loss was to Hendricken, which won the state title.
This round against the Patriots wasn’t quite so eye-popping, but it showed North Kingstown’s potential and its needs for improvement.
“You always feel like you should be right where you left off the year before,” Gilmartin said. “Obviously, we’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot of work and a lot of coaching to do . . . We gave up a turnover on a punt that was just stupid. Gave up a long play. Those are uncharacteristic. We have to correct those things. We’ll play better than that.”
Senior quarterback James Osmanski – the MVP of last year’s Super Bowl win – ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, racking up 276 yards through the air and 32 on the ground.
“James is a tremendous threat,” Gilmartin said. “He’s just hard to stop.”
Eddie Cardarelli capped a 76-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for the game’s first score, just over four minutes in. Later in the first quarter, Osmanski hit Tyler Pezza for 33 yards to set up his own 4-yard touchdown run. Max Rome’s extra point made it 14-0.
After a punt on their next trip, Keith Mancini stole the ball back for the Skippers with an interception. Five plays later, Osmanski found Pezza on a jump ball down the left sideline for a 36-yard score. At that point, it was a 20-0 game and Portsmouth had yet to pick up a first down.
The tide started to shift slightly when North Kingstown muffed a punt late in the second quarter. A Portsmouth player was injured soon after and a long delay ensued, which led officials to declare a halftime break. The second quarter resumed after the break and Portsmouth scored with 10 seconds left on a Ben Hurd 3-yard touchdown run.
The Patriots started with the ball in the second half and were threatening to make even more headway with a drive that moved out to midfield. But Ben Gilmartin intercepted a Hurd pass and weaved his way 50 yards for a touchdown, restoring the three-socre lead.
North Kingstown added on from there, getting an 8-yard touchdown run by Osmanski and a 3-yard score by Bush. Those were sandwiched around a 14-yard touchdown run by Hurd for the Patriots.
“It’s a hard game to manage,” Gilmartin said. “Their blitz game makes it tough to run and when you get up a few scores you don’t really want to throw and you’re forced to run. That made it difficult. They’re pretty good and when they’re on the move, they’re difficult to block. So we had a little trouble running the football.”
Osmanski’s 32 rushing yards led the North Kingstown ground game. There were bigger numbers in the passing attack, with Pezza catching five balls for 137 yards and a touchdown and Matt Reilly hauling in five for 68 yards.
The Skippers will open league play Saturday with a trip to the East Side of Providence to take on Moses Brown.
“We’ve got an awful lot of stuff to get better at,” Gilmartin said. “And the kids we put in late, they’ve got to get better, too. As they get better, it’ll press those [first-teamers] to clean up some of that slop. That’s what I’m waiting for. We’re pushing hard at that second level, trying to get them playing at a higher level, so we can really get some good practices.”