Anthony DiCicco had to catch his breath before he celebrated on the sideline. He wasn’t used to sprinting 47 yards for a touchdown.
Although, for one of the Mariners’ unsung heroes, unexpected help was nothing new.
DiCicco played tight end and linebacker for most of the season, but also filled in at quarterback early in the year when starter Phil Theroux missed two games. The Mariners won both those games, DiCicco helping them avoid missteps that could have thrown their championship quest off course before it really even started.
“I’ve always been that type of way,” DiCicco said. “I love this team. I’ll do whatever it takes for us to win the game.”
The Mariners had lost their non-league opener to South Kingstown, when they also lost Theroux to COVID-19 protocols. DiCicco stepped in for games against Central Falls and Chariho and helped keep the Mariners afloat. They beat the Warriors 24-8 and the Chargers 20-8 for a 2-0 start to league play.
DiCicco would have been forgiven for not being ready to step in. He had entered the program as a quarterback. When Theroux transferred in from North Kingstown, the two split time in the spring season before Theroux won the job outright. DiCicco had already been a key player on defense in the past, and he was more than willing to focus on that, while chipping in on offense when needed. He didn’t pout, exemplifying the “We, not me,” motto that the Mariners leaned on.
“He was willing to do whatever we needed,” Blessing said earlier this season. “He knew we were a stronger team with him playing all over the field for us.”
The Super Bowl game represented a bit of a reward for DiCicco, whether he needed it or not. With the Chargers still in range and driving near midfield, a lateral pass hit the ground. The receiver seemed to think it was an incomplete pass. DiCicco didn’t take any chances, grabbing the ball and taking off. He rumbled all the way to the end zone, and the whistle never blew. The touchdown put the game out of reach and sent the Mariners on their way to the championship.
“Anthony picking up the football was huge,” Blessing said. “He’s played football his whole life. That was Anthony being Anthony, making a big play.”
The path from 2018
Narragansett will have one last game together on Thanksgiving, when they visit Exeter-West Greenwich.
For the seniors, it will be a full-circle moment.
When they were freshmen, the Mariners had battled injuries and attrition in a tough season and took the field for the Thanksgiving game with about 20 players in uniform. The game had been postponed from the holiday due to weather. It would have been easy to limp to the finish, but the Mariners fought for a win and established something in the process.
They haven’t lost much since.
“We were out at EWG four years ago with about 18 or 19 warm bodies on the sideline, and that was this group,” Blessing said. “The next year, we went 6-0 out of the gate. We had a great senior class but a small junior class. The kids saw that success, we got more kids out in the COVID spring season. To win in 2021 twice is pretty cool.”
The senior class features DiCicco, Theroux, Peanut Chaloux, Tyler Poirier, Nic Nunez, Jack Oberheu, Ethan Nagle, Linus Dannler, Zach Bianco, Reider Fry, Colin Flynn, Noah Gartner, Chase Laccinole, Darrin Gallagher and Dom Conte.
A visit from the past
The Mariners had a special guest at one of their practices before the Super Bowl. Longtime head coach Jim Zepp stopped in to visit with coaches and speak to the Mariners.
Zepp built the program into a powerhouse. The field at the Narragansett Community Athletic Complex is named for him. Blessing played for Zepp when he was suiting up for the Mariners, and was thrilled to see his former coach.