When Narragansett and South Kingstown won boys soccer championships on Nov. 21, it was a culmination for players who grew up together on South County fields.
Or backyards, in the case of one family.
Brothers Nick and Jake Biafore won a title with the Mariners, while cousin Sam Biafore claimed the top prize with the Rebels. The family rooted them on – from a distance where necessary – and was thrilled that the season ended with a trophy.
“It was really neat,” said John Biafore, Sam’s father. “With COVID of course, it made it a little tricky. Normally, we would be at the Narragansett games. My brother certainly would have been at Sam’s game, and we would have been at Nick’s game if we could have been. It was a little bit of a bummer from that perspective. But the texts were flying and we were getting updates. It was really cool. It’s great for both towns. South County soccer, a lot of these kids grow up playing with each other, so it was cool to see them both win at the same time.”
In addition to the family ties on this year’s teams, John and brother Mike – Nick and Jake’s dad – are Narragansett High School graduates, as is their oldest brother Terry. John’s wife, Jen, and Mike’s wife, Veronica, also went to Narragansett and were part of the 1988 girls soccer championship team. Veronica coached in South County Youth Soccer and is heavily involved with the Mariner Booster Club. Jen teaches at Narragansett High School.
“Typical South County stuff,” John said with a laugh.
While John and Mike played football for the Mariners, the next generation embraced their mothers’ sport. Sam and Nick, who are one year apart, played recreation soccer together when they were young.
“When we were very little, South Kingstown Rec, we played together,” Nick said. “Our other cousin, he was on the team too. We just stuck with it. We grew up loving it.”
“From finding the balls in the woods and building nets for them and things like that - there was always a lot of soccer in the backyard,” John said.
“Since John didn’t play soccer, clearly I gave Sam all of his soccer talent,” Jen joked.
Sam followed in his older brother’s footsteps to join the Rebels, where he emerged as a standout defender and was named a captain this season. Nick and Jake live in South Kingstown but are in a CTE program at Narragansett. Nick played mostly defense for the Mariners this season as a junior. Jake, a freshman, played junior varsity and was contributing in practice with the varsity team in the postseason.
It looked to be a promising season for both teams, and once soccer got the green light amid the pandemic, they hit the ground running. South Kingstown opened the year with a win over defending state champion – and longtime nemesis – La Salle. Narragansett announced itself in Division III following realignment with three straight wins.
The playoffs brought more success. The Rebels survived a scare in the quarterfinals against Barrington, then won again over La Salle for a spot in the finals. They blitzed Tolman with three early goals in the championship match en route to the win.
“It was really fun,” Sam said. “It was a really great time from the start of the season to the end. We knew going into it that no one had been training like us. We trained all summer long, three times a week. We knew going into the season that we could out-run everyone and that if we played our brand of soccer, we’d have a pretty good shot.”
Narragansett rolled through the playoffs with three straight shutouts, beating Johnston 3-0 for the D-III crown.
“It was awesome,” Nick said. “Our team has dreamed about winning for a long time, all of our seniors and us upperclassmen. We were really excited, and we always hoped to win one year. It fortunately was this year. We practiced every day and executed perfectly.”
South Kingstown played at noon on championship Saturday. Mike, Veronica, Nick and Jake watched the live stream on the NFHS Network. Before he got on the bus at Narragansett, Jake connected with Sam.
“That day was special,” Nick said. “I was watching the SK game on the NFHS network. As soon as the game was over, I started texting him. When we were going to the bus, I FaceTimed him. He wished me good luck. It was a special moment.”
Narragansett played later in the day on the same field at Johnston High School.
“It was pretty cool,” Sam said. “Nick texted me before my game wishing me luck. Right after the game, we were on the bus ride home, all celebrating. I realized he was going up to his game and he called me to congratulate me. I was like, ‘Thanks, man. Now it’s your turn. You’ve got to bring it home.’”
It was mission accomplished, for the family - and for plenty of players and parents who feel like family.
“It was great,” Mike said. “We have been involved with many of the kids in both communities for a number of years, through South County Youth Soccer. My wife was on the board of South County Youth Soccer and coached a lot of the kids on both rosters. We had a vested interest in both programs, through Sam obviously, but also through a bunch of other kids.”
As a parent of a player from one school and a teacher at the other, Jen knows almost every player. There was a lot to cheer for.
“It was great to see, not only my nephews out there and my son, but all the kids I’ve taught over the years or know through the hallways,” Jen said. “I think the soccer people tend to stick together and root each other on. It was really exciting. I was happy for the kids, especially in a year where COVID has put a damper on so many things for them. It was great that they were able to play, and then to go out and win the championship – it was awesome.”
Sports and family celebrations are among the many parts of life impacted by the pandemic. The Biafores got enough of both for a great soccer season, just like they once envisioned in the backyard.
“Our two teams, we put in the work to be great,” Nick said, “and that’s what happened on that day.”