NARRAGANSETT — On the map after two close wins, the Narragansett High School football team set out to show it belonged there.
The Mariners dominated both sides of the ball and powered their way to a 40-0 lead before closing out a 40-14 victory over Toll Gate on Saturday morning at Jim Zepp Field.
“Great effort,” head coach Matt Blessing said. “I told them, ‘Hey, today let’s make a statement.’ The game against Tolman, I think a lot of people think we just sweated it out. They didn’t see a lot of those first-half plays where we could have knocked a couple of scores up. And we told the guys, ‘We’ve got to get better.’”
While the competition level was different, the Mariners’ performance represented a sustained version of the flashes shown in the wins over Tiverton and Tolman. Quarterback Eddie Blessing accounted for five touchdowns, three through the air and two on the ground. The defense didn’t allow a score until the fourth quarter.
The Mariners are now 3-0 overall and 2-0 in Division III league play. Toll Gate is a Division IV squad, but the matchup was a crossover game that counts in the league standings.
With the third victory, Narragansett has already exceeded last year’s win total.
“Last year, we battled some injuries. This year, we’re coming together,” Eddie Blessing said. “We’re more of a team. We’ve just got to stay healthy and keep going. We’re pretty united right now.”
Saturday’s game actually got off to a slow start for the Mariners, with Toll Gate intercepting Blessing on their third play from scrimmage. The Titans proceeded to drive into Narragansett territory before the Mariner defense came up with a fourth-down stop at the 32-yard line.
Then Narragansett took off.
Third-down conversions on a pass to Atticus Duncan and a run by Blessing got the Mariners moving, and Blessing raced into the end zone from 9 yards out on the first play of the second quarter.
After a Tyler Poirier interception, the Mariners turned the ball over on downs but were quickly back in business. Following a Toll Gate punt, Blessing found Poirier for 26 yards and Colby Corson for a 24-yard score that made it 14-0.
Just before halftime, the Mariners struck again as Blessing found Poirier on a perfectly-placed throw to the end zone for the 21-0 lead.
Ther Mariners poured it on in the second half. Blessing scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown that made it 28-0, then hit B.J. Richards on a deep ball for a 49-yard touchdown. After Narragansett recovered a lateral pass that Toll Gate thought was an incompletion, Duncan ran the ball in from 9 yards out on the next play, making it 40-0.
“I’m happy with their play,” Matt Blessing said. “Colby Corson is going to get better every week. Tyler Poirier as a sophomore, he’s pretty electric. I think we had five different guys score today and that’s what you want.”
Toll Gate got a score from Kenny Morel plus a fumble return touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Blessing completed 12 of 15 passes for 240 yards and the three scores. Duncan was his primary target on swing passes out of the backfield, catching six passes for 87 yards. He also rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown. Blessing added 75 yards rushing.
The Mariners handled the pass rush better than they had the week before, when Tolman was in Blessing’s face on almost every dropback.
“When you run that spread, you’ve got five on seven guys,” Matt Blessing said. “It’s really about your checkdowns. When they man it up, you’ve got to get better about checking to the right guys in those situations. And it’s not easy, but that’s what it’s about. It’s a learning process.”
There’s also a new scheme on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s working.
“We went to the 3-3 stack and our outside linebackers are learning how to play their positions, checking the slot receivers, so that our inside backers can really create a lot of tension for the quarterbacks and take up the run,” Blessing said. “The defensive tackles are doing a great job. It’s working for us. We don’t have the size for a four-man front. We’re playing with more linebackers and it’s serving us well.”
The Mariners will step out of league play for a matchup with Juanita Sanchez/PCD/Wheeler on Saturday in East Providence. They’ll return to league action Oct. 12 when they visit reigning D-III champion Central Falls.
“We’ve just got to believe in ourselves, really,” Eddie Blessing said. “Last year, we would get a few touchdowns scored on us and we’d fold. This year, we know we have the power to come back.”