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SOUTH KINGSTOWNâIt was just one half of football in an Injury Fund setting.
A game that most coaches openly admit means nothing when it comes to the regular season and how good a team really is.
But man, was it impressive.
North Kingstown â the same team that spent three years toiling in winless obscurity before having a slight resurgence last season â physically outmatched Westerly Saturday in a 21-13 Skipper victory at Curtis Corner Middle School.
âI think fatigue played a role,â NK coach Joe Gilmartin said. âWeâre not at full speed but weâre playing a little different pace and early they met the challenge of that pace. Later on you could tell we got them tired a little bit.â
Now, the Bulldogs â who play in the other side of Division II â certainly didnât show their full hand Saturday and neither did NK but if thereâs one thing Westerly has been come to be known for its power football.
Early on Westerly showed that signature style, taking a 6-0 lead on the gameâs opening possession and holding the Skippers scoreless on theirs.
Over the past few years, that would have been enough for the Skippers to fold â whether the game was Injury Fund, regular season or in someoneâs back yard.
Saturday NK took a shot and kept coming.
âSome of the teaching that weâre doing I think is beginning to take hold,â Gilmartin said. âWe made plenty of mistakes, there are plenty of things to fix but thatâs good to see.
âItâs nice to see those kids be rewarded for those plays so hopefully now the teaching will go a little bit further. If they trust what youâre saying maybe it goes a little bit further.â
The Skippers forced Westerly to punt on its next possession and answered by running the ball nine times in the next 10 snaps en route to a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive capped off by an eight-yard run by Matt Deignan.
After the two teams alternated three-and-outs Nick Chevalier scooped up an interception on the Skippersâ side of the field and returned it to the Westerly 40-yard line.
NK needed less than one minute to break the tie as Deignan found Corey Coogan for a 22-yard touchdown pass on the heels of three straight rushes to put North up 14-6 following the two-point conversion by Chevalier.
The Skippers recovered a fumble on the Bulldogs next possession at the Westerly 18-yard line and needed just 100 seconds before Chevalier punched it in from one yard out for a 21-6 lead.
North Kingstown took its foot off the pedal from there with just two minutes remaining in the game â allowing Westerly to score a touchdown with a few seconds remaining â but it was abundantly clear that when the Skippers have the ball they want to play full-throttle offense.
âWeâre still not at full speed,â Gilmartin said. âWe have another gear beyond that and when we get to full speed I think that weâll be able to put some pressure on some guys and make them tired and get some things going.
âIt played a key role tonight, I donât think thereâs any question. They had some real big kids up front who caused us a problem early but late in the game I think they were a bit gassed and we were able to run the ball pretty effectively.â
While the first impression was good for NK, itâs certainly going to have its opportunities to prove itself early on this season.
North has one more non-league game Friday at 7 p.m. at Division II-A Coventry before opening the regular season on the road at one of the teams in to beat in Division II-B in West Warwick at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21.
From there things donât get much easier as the Skippers will host strong opponents in Cumberland and Rogers early in October after wrapping up September at Pilgrim.