The Exeter-West Greenwich/Prout co-op football team hopes a strong spring season will be a springboard into the fall.
The Knights were one of the top teams in Division IV in the abbreviated slate, hanging close with both Super Bowl finalists in the regular season and earning the program’s first playoff bid since 2013. It was the first playoff appearance for the program since it became a co-op.
The Knights lost a 14-12 heartbreaker to eventual runner-up Ponaganset in the semifinals, narrowly missing a Super Bowl berth.
“Coming off a playoff run last season I am hoping it will bring more excitement about football to both schools, Exeter-West Greenwich and Prout,” head coach Cliff Fortin said. “I’m looking to continue where we left off last year. We were very competitive last year and made the playoffs for the first time as a co-op. My second year as a head coach making the playoffs was great. I want to continue to grow this football program and make it known as a good football program in Rhode Island. I want to be competitive, I want the players to enjoy their football experience, and we want to make a run at a state championship.”
This will be the fourth season of the co-op arrangement, with a handful of Prout players joining up each year. They’re part of a good crew this year, though the team must replace 12 players who graduated in the spring.
The Knights matched up with Narragansett in an Injury Fund preseason game last Friday. The Mariners, who won the D-IV title last year, are bumping back up to D-III and looked the part, winning 36-0. But it was a valuable experience for the Knights.
“Coach Blessing and I spoke a few times before the game about our ideas for tonight’s game. I used this game as a scrimmage to measure where we are as a team. Not having a scrimmage or joint practices makes it very difficult to evaluate new players and the improvement of returning players. We graduated 12 seniors and in D4 that’s a big deal,” Fortin said. “Most of my starters played the first quarter and into the second quarter, we played well and we were competitive, that’s what I wanted to see. I needed to see the guys who are still competing for position go against game time competition and see how they would react during a live game. Being down 22-0 at the half wasn’t where I wanted to be, but we made mistakes and Narragansett didn’t. Narragansett is a well coached team, a big team, and you can’t make mistakes when you play them.”
Overall, it was a good starting point as the Knights saw what they need to work on, while getting a good test.
“The second half was all about my younger players, my sophomores and freshmen,” Fortin said. “I was happy that every player got out on the field and played some football. We did some good things but we have a lot of things to improve on.”
EWG/Prout has a bye this week, with its first game set for Sept. 18.