WOOD RIVER JCT. — When Chariho High and Westerly High step on the field Friday in the football season opener for both teams, the contest will not lack for intensity.
“I love that this is Game 1,” Bulldogs coach Duane Maranda said. “We both wanted to keep this game [after realignment]. It brings a little bit of juice to a game to start the year.”
The game kicks off at Chariho at 7 p.m.
Chariho, which moved down to Division III this season, has defeated the Division II Bulldogs the past two seasons.
In 2016, the Chargers kept the Westerly offense out of the end zone in a 7-3 win, and, last season, they limited the Bulldogs to just seven points to prevail 10-7.
“We have to do a good job of matching their intensity,” Maranda said. “It’s their Super Bowl. They get fired up for this game.”
But Chariho coach Rick Martin doesn’t see it that way. While the Chargers will certainly play with intensity, the game will not be the be-all and end-all for their season.
Martin sees harm in investing too much emotionally in a nonleague game, even if it is against a big rival. Martin said the Chargers will have more important games on their schedule.
“I want to focus on what we need to do to get Chariho back into the playoffs,” he said. “I feel we can beat them, but we need to get the wins necessary for the playoffs. That is our focus.
“We can’t get too hyped up for this game. We need to stay focused and not have any distractions. If we pull out a win, great. But I’m not going to worry about this game. If we match them physically, we will be right in it.”
Westerly returns first-team All-State running back Tristan Turano for his senior season. Turano rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season.
“Tristan is something different,” said Martin, who was a coach at Westerly when Turano was a freshman. “I was just watching film, and eight or nine kids were trying to tackle him and he just pushes them away.”
Martin also expects the Bulldogs to throw a bit more this year.
Last season, Westerly failed to finish a number of drives against the Chargers, including one within 1 yard of the end zone to conclude the first half.
“We have to finish off drives,” Maranda said. “We don’t want to get into a field-position, back-and-forth game with them.”
Westerly lost in its Injury Fund preseason game against North Kingstown, 13-7.
Chariho’s Tom O’Horo ran well in the Chargers’ Injury Fund contest against South Kingstown (a 21-6 loss). Chariho kicker Andrew Havens is also a threat. His 37-yard field goal in the second half proved to be the winning points against Westerly last season. Martin said he has range up to 40 yards and sometimes beyond.