WOOD RIVER JCT. — When Chariho High travels to Narragansett on Thanksgiving morning, the short-term stakes for each team will be the same.
It goes without saying that both the Chargers and Mariners will be vying for a win once the ball is in the air on the opening kickoff at 10 a.m. in Narragansett. Chariho looks to take a 3-1 lead in the brief history of the series, while Narragansett seeks to square things up at 2-2.
Chariho needs a victory to match last season’s 4-6 record and avoid a regression in coach Rick Martin’s second year on the job. Narragansett, on the other hand, is a team already playing with house money in a sense.
Under the stewardship of first-year head coach Matt Blessing, the Mariners (6-3, 5-3 Division III) made the postseason for the first time since 2013. Narragansett lost its postseason opener against Central Falls, 14-7, but its season can already be considered a success no matter which angle you attack it from.
“For us, it’s still a really big game,” Blessing said. “But in terms of the season, that’s one of the things where we got the team back together [after Central Falls] and we told them that they should be very proud of their performance. It was disappointing to be that close to a victory and not pull it out, but it’s definitely something to be happy with.”
The Chargers (3-6, 2-5 Division II) have followed a script eerily similar to last season, opening the year with a blowout loss followed by an impressive victory. True to form, Chariho lost its next five games, its closest defeat an 11-point setback at Classical High; the Chargers were also shut out three times.
But there’s reason for optimism once again, despite a trying beginning of the season. Chariho has done anything but merely play out the string; its victories over Coventry and Pilgrim this month have each been impressive in their own right.
“I put that on the kids before the Coventry game, and they’ve responded,” Martin said of challenging the Chargers to match last season’s record.
While the Chargers breezed past the Oakers, their game against the Patriots was perhaps the most impressive of Martin’s tenure. Trailing 19-6 in the fourth quarter, Chariho rallied and hung on for a 26-25 win. Martin said that wouldn’t have occured in September and October, regardless of the opponent.
“When we went down 19-6, I said we need to do something soon, because offensively we haven’t been able to score quickly,” Martin said. “Wouldn’t you know it, something happens, we get picked up a little bit and momentum goes our way. At the beginning of the season, that wouldn’t have happened.”
Though Pilgrim is just 3-7, Martin said that, schematically, it presented a similar look to what the Chargers will face on Thursday.
“They’re a good all-around team,” Martin said of the Mariners. “The good thing is Pilgrim had a really good back that was tough to take down, a really good receiver that had great hands that was big, and a quarterback that could move. We’re coming off of a game that had very similar players to Narragansett.”
Blessing isn’t worried about his players’ ability to get up for the contest.
“I think the kids are looking forward to this game, and hopefully giving Chariho a good fight and pulling out a victory,” he said.
Martin downplayed the fact that Chariho and Narragansett aren’t in the same division, noting that “it’s still football.”
“It’s how the matchups will be,” Martin said. “And if we can match up well against them coming off of Pilgrim the way we did, then I think we’ll be in good shape. That’s what it comes down to.”