My first instinct has usually been yellow, although I suppose orange could just as easily fit the bill. It always surprises me the question is not the preferred flavor, but rather the color. All things being equal, I am usually disappointed when the selection is down to red or blue, but looking for a revitalizer, it never really seems to matter.

But, if I were to select now, I suspect my color would change.

“For sure we have black and gold,” would be the response from the young lady on the refreshment cart as she stopped mid-fairway to meet my hydration need. “After the past few years around here, the company had no choice but to add this blend.”

Gatorade has found a figurative home right here in South County, more specifically, on the doorsteps of North Kingstown High School. The Gatorade high school football player of the year award has now been presented in back-to-back years to Skippers, and very easily could have been awarded the prior year to a third Skipper who dominated the football landscape during his senior campaign.

Having these three athletes rise to this level alone is fabulous. We all love seeing our local talent succeed. The past three years have brought them to the forefront of the sports pages and conversations across the region and state.

Named player of the year this past week for the recently finished season was James Osmanski. The year prior saw Dylan Poirier take home the prize. And still one year before that, Joe Gilmartin dominated state play. All tremendously talented, both Osmanski and Gilmartin as quarterbacks, the prior a multi-dimensional QB, able to throw accurately both long and short, combined with deceiving speed and an uncanny ability to leverage lead blocks for huge chunks of yardage. Gilmartin, more the old fashioned style quarterback, a Brett Favre-like pocket thrower, with a rocket arm, a knack for leading, and a poise on the field beyond his years. Poirier, he just dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage with his interior play, seemingly in another power and technique zone from those across from him. Again, great stories, all three. We love to see it. But that is just the start.

The beauty of this tale lies in the similarities of the trio and how they represent a snapshot of our regional athletes. We would have to excuse these three if, at their young age, they allowed the constant headlines, talk around school, and chatter within the community, to affect their opinion of themselves. After all, so often, our older professional athletes carry themselves as if in another stratosphere based simply on their ability to play a sport.

But, with this flavor of black and gold, Osmanski, Poirier, and Gilmartin, there is a seemingly complete lack of recognition of what they have accomplished. Forget the back-to-back-to-back titles. Forget they each dominated play during their time. No signs of inflated ego in this group.

Read the excerpts from their postgame interviews or television cameos. Always an appreciation for the efforts of the opponent. Without hesitation, excitement and recognition for the contribution of their teammates. Regular talk of the support, teaching, and caring, of the coaching staff. Just not the type to dwell on themselves.

And watch their dealings with their teammates, whether starters, reserves, or the younger classes. While they lead, they walk with the team, not in front of them. They talk of “we,” not “me.” They are in on the light-hearted humor, rather than believing themselves above it. They are leaders, but they do it from the middle of the pile, not standing alone. They seem to understand they were as strong as their weakest link and they work to make sure the entire bond is strong.

While their physical dominance and statistics will go down in school sports history, perhaps their greatest contribution will be who they were and how they did it. It is an enormous credit to each of them, along with their parents, families, and coaches.

And, right there with the development of these three young men, is the encouraging and vitalizing knowledge that they are a microcosm of the youth of our South County community, including the athletes that compete across all sports on a regular basis. Observe the chatter between teammates across so many sports venues, the exchanges between upperclassmen and underclassmen, the slap on the back in recognition of an opponent’s effort, the acknowledgement that a missed opportunity fell on their shoulders, not their teammate.

We have been blessed to have the Skipper trio as role models these past few years and welcome the passing of the torch to the so many good young people to follow in their large footsteps.

Bill Barry is a North Kingstown resident. He writes about the local sports scene, sports parenting and more in a regular column.

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