NORTH KINGSTOWN — Narragansett’s 51-0 victory in week one was a near-perfect start, but in terms of preparation for week two and beyond, it was not exactly the best proving ground.
The Mariners matched up in week two with Exeter-West Greenwich/Prout, a team that played an overtime game in week one, and found themselves in a battle.
“My guys were walking sky-high and we were trying to pull them back to earth all week,” Blessing said. “And EWG was battle-tested in that overtime game against Ponaganset.”
Knocked back to earth, the Mariners responded and channeled enough of their week one success into a 21-14 victory on Saturday morning at North Kingstown High School, which is doubling as EWG/Prout’s home field.
“[EWG coach] Cliff Fortin had a great game plan,” Blessing said. “We knew they were going to try to take the air out of the ball and slow it down. We didn’t think they would be as effective as they were out of the gates, so we had to switch our defense up and make some adjustments. We made enough plays.”
The win puts Narragansett at 2-0, with the most points scored in Division IV and the second-fewest points allowed. Ponaganset, which won’t play the Mariners in the regular season, has also been impressive in a 2-0 start.
The Mariners discovered early in Saturday’s game that they were on different footing from week one. Behind standout running back Hunter Mumford – who would finish with 116 yards rushing on a whopping 35 carries – EWG/Prout methodically marched deep into Narragansett territory on its first drive. The Mariners eventually made a stop but found tough sledding in the other direction, punting on their first possession.
The teams traded one more empty trip each in what ended up as a scoreless first quarter. Another long drive by the Scarlet Knights culminated in a 4-yard touchdown run by Josh Capwell. Misty Mitchell’s extra point made it 7-0.
A good kickoff return by Brady Butler – plus a personal foul face mask penalty on the Knights – gave Narragansett a quick boost. Taking over in the red zone, the Mariners scored three plays later on an 8-yard touchdown run by Reider Fry. Lucas Masson’s PAT tied the game.
The score remained tied into halftime. Narragansett opened with the ball in the second half and went backwards on its first two plays but then delivered its best play of the game. On third-and-20, Phil Theroux hit Ethan Betts on a seam route, and with the help of downfield blocks, Betts weaved his way 72 yards for a touchdown. Masson’s extra point made it 14-7.
A defensive adjustment helped Narragansett stay in front, with EWG/Prout unable to find as much running room in the second half.
“Our scheme adapts well, the stack defense we run, to a run-pass game,” Blessing said. “Teams that just run heavy, you’ve got to bring more guys inside the box.”
The Mariners missed a chance to add to their lead when a 56-yard touchdown was wiped off the board due to a holding penalty. It was one of several key whistles that hurt the Mariners.
“Last game, there were times we should have been called for penalties,” Blessing said. “We tried to get it in their heads. You get different officiating crews every week. In a game like that, they might not be calling everything because it’s a blowout. We’ve got to get more disciplined. If you want to play for the game at the season’s end, you’ve go to be disciplined.”
It remained a one-score game into the fourth quarter when Narragansett’s defense came up big. Peanut Chaloux intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
“He’s coming off a great basketball season and he reads it well on defense,” Blessing said. “That was a big time play.”
The Scarlet Knights got their running game going again with counter plays for Jared Zalcberg. Todd Schofield capped a 67-yard drive with a touchdown that got the Knights within seven.
Narragansett fell on an onside kick attempt and ran off a little bit of clock before punting. EWG/Prout went into Narragansett territory on its last drive, but Butler intercepted a pass in the final minute to lock up the win for Narragansett.
Narragansett continued rotating quarterbacks Theroux and Anthony DiCicco. They combined to complete 12 of 19 passes for 151 yards. Fry rushed 11 times for 40 yards and a touchdown to lead the Narragansett rushing attack.
The Mariners will go on the road to face North Providence on Friday at 6:30 p.m.