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SOUTH KINGSTOWNâ€”It 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.
â€śI think fatigue played a role,â€ť NK coach Joe Gilmartin said. â€śWeâ€™re not at full speed but weâ€™re 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€ť
Now, the Bulldogs â€“ who play in the other side of Division II â€“ certainly didnâ€™t show their full hand Saturday and neither did NK but if thereâ€™s 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 gameâ€™s 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 someoneâ€™s back yard.
Saturday NK took a shot and kept coming.
â€śSome of the teaching that weâ€™re doing I think is beginning to take hold,â€ť Gilmartin said. â€śWe made plenty of mistakes, there are plenty of things to fix but thatâ€™s good to see.
â€śItâ€™s 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 youâ€™re saying maybe it goes a little bit further.â€ť
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.
â€śWeâ€™re still not at full speed,â€ť Gilmartin said. â€śWe have another gear beyond that and when we get to full speed I think that weâ€™ll be able to put some pressure on some guys and make them tired and get some things going.
â€śIt played a key role tonight, I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s 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€ť
While the first impression was good for NK, itâ€™s 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 donâ€™t get much easier as the Skippers will host strong opponents in Cumberland and Rogers early in October after wrapping up September at Pilgrim.