It will be a blast from the past at Curtis Corner Middle School on Friday night.
The South Kingstown High School football team is set to host Narragansett at 5 p.m. for the first official meeting between the teams in at least a decade. Since the end of the their Thanksgiving rivalry in 1999, the teams have met mostly in scrimmages or Injury Fund preseason games, which typically feature only one half of football. Friday’s matchup won’t count in the standings as a non-league contest, but it will be a full game that goes in the record books.
“Some of the coaches when we were growing up, South Kingstown was our rival,” Narragansett coach Matt Blessing said. “It’s a very strong program. Eric [Anderson] did a nice job with it and then handed it off and Gerry [Zannella] has done a great job. We always hoped we’d be in a position to compete with them. This year, we wanted to see if we could get the game. We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this.’’
While Narragansett and South Kingstown have annual matchups in a number of sports – most notably the boys basketball season opener that always draws big crowds – the gap in school size has largely kept them in different leagues. That’s been especially true for football, where size makes a big difference.
For 25 years, the teams met on Thanksgiving Day, beginning in 1975. It was a back-and-forth series for the first 17 years, with the Mariners winning 10 times and the Rebels winning seven. Beginning in 1992, South Kingstown won eight in a row, many by lopsided scores. The 1999 meeting was the last.
South Kingstown began its current Thanksgiving series with North Kingstown in 2000. Narragansett switched to an annual matchup with East Greenwich, which continued for 13 years before the teams changed things up due to RIIL realignment. The Mariners have since gone against Chariho and EWG/Prout.
The return of Thanksgiving football this year will feature the usual matchups, with North against South and Narragansett facing EWG/Prout. But it’ll be a taste of holidays past this weekend, and it could be an exciting matchup. While the teams remain two divisions apart, Narragansett is coming off a Division IV Super Bowl championship in the spring season and is running with strong numbers. South Kingstown narrowly missed out on a playoff spot in Division I last season and may have the edge in size and physicality. But the Mariners are as well-positioned as they’ve been in recent years to compete with their old rivals.
Whatever happens, it’s a nice twist on opening night.
“It’s a fun game locally to start off the season,” Blessing said.
Area teams earn spots in football poll
For a few years running, North Kingstown has been the top public school football program in the state, and that’s where the Skippers slot in the first edition of the 2021 Rhode Island Sports Media High School Football Poll, which was released Wednesday.
Reigning state champion Bishop Hendricken tops the poll and captured all seven first-place votes. La Salle is in second. North Kingstown ranks third, the same spot where it finished the spring season.
South Kingstown is tied for 12th in the poll after just missing a playoff berth last year. Defending D-IV champion Narragansett ranks 16th as it gets set for a move to D-III.
Division I, non-state champ Central ranks fourth behind North Kingstown, with Portsmouth rounding out the top five.
The full poll:
2. La Salle
3. North Kingstown
6. St. Raphael
t-7. East Greenwich
t-12. South Kingstown
14. Cranston West
t-18. Mount Pleasant
Cross country teams show well at Injury Fund event
The North Kingstown girls cross country team won the Varsity 3 race at the Injury Fund carnival event held Saturday at Smithfield’s Deerfield Park. The team’s top five runners all finished in the top 10. Rory Sullivan led the way with a second-place finish in 19 minutes, 20.12 seconds. Molly Sullivan was just behind her in third and Ruby Nunnery finished fourth. Tori Chace took sixth and Gabriella Carnevale rounded out the scoring in 10th. The Skippers totaled 18 points to beat second-place Cumberland. The North Kingstown boys also ran well in their race. Led by Jackson Borge’s second-place finish, the Skippers took second behind St. Raphael. Cameron Ferrell, John Randall, Jack Toolin and Jake Sillivan also scored for the Skippers.
South Kingstown’s girls took second in the Varsity 1 race, while the boys placed third. Isabelle McDonald led the Rebel girls in sixth place, with Abbie Nowell, Isabelle Lawless, Laurel Filiberto and Sophia Caito also scoring. Antonio Capalbo paced the boys in fifth. Will Ballard, T.J. Blechman, Nick Peters and Brody Shiels also chipped in with points.
The Prout boys and girls both finished fourth in their races. The boys were led by Jesse Fitzelle-Jones, Blake Sykes, Ben Barnes, Joe Trombino and Jake Demos. Scoring for the girls were Jessica Mastrandrea, Laurel McMahon, Sophia Abbott, Waela Van Nostrand and Ava Grosso.
Narragansett got strong showings from its top individuals. Madeleine O’Neill finished ninth in the Varsity 3 race, while Adam Melnick led the boys with a fifth-place finish in Varsity 4.