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History and Tradition Drive Narragansett High Players

Narragansett High Football coach Matt Blessing and team – Photo Courtesy Narragansett High

Catch the Pilgrim @ Narragansett football game on YurView LIVE this Friday November 1 at 7:00pm on Cox Channel 4 and streaming on YurView.com

Some people say history is lost on today’s young people. They think teenagers who live in a world of instant information thanks to the internet aren’t interested in something like tradition.

The people who think that way haven’t been to any Narragansett High football games this season.

“We understand the tradition here,” said Eddie Blessing, the current Narragansett starting quarterback. “We see the trophies in the trophy case and the banners in the gym. We want to make something like that happen for us.”

With only a little over a total student enrollment of 400, Narragansett is one of the smallest football- playing schools in Rhode Island. Of course, that’s nothing new. The Mariners have been one of the state’s smallest football-playing schools since they joined the Interscholastic League in 1975.

But, while the school may have lacked quantity in its student enrollment through the years, the Mariners definitely enjoyed football quality.

There was the back to back state titles the Mariners won in 1986 and 87 playing against larger schools in Division II. The Mariners also won back to back Division IV state titles in 1998 and 99′ and added another Division IV state title in 2003. In the decades of the 1980s, 90s and 2000 Narragansett played in 11 football Super Bowls.

Now, after experiencing losing seasons four of the past five years the 2019 Mariners are restoring the tradition of Narragansett football excellence.

Last Friday night Blessing, a senior, scored two touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass leading Narragansett to the 23-6 victory over North Providence that upped the Mariners Division III record to 5-0. That set the stage for a Friday night showdown for the DIII regular season title against Pilgrim, which is 6-0 in league play.

Nobody understands the tradition of Narragansett football better than Eddie Blessing. After all, not only did his father, Matt Blessing who now also is the Narragansett head coach, play for the Mariners in the late 1980s, the current Mariners quarterback also has three uncles who played for Narragansett.

“There is a great tradition here from the ’80s and ’90s and we are trying to bring it back,” said Eddie, who has already has passed for 18 touchdowns this season. “We have a few other guys on the team whose fathers played for Narragansett. We are a small school. We only have about 100 kids in each class so we play multiple sports. This is a special place,” adding Blessing, who also plays basketball and baseball for the Mariners.

When the Mariners and Patriots kick-off Friday night it will be one of the biggest schools in Division III against the smallest. While Narraganset only has 400-plus students, Pilgrim has 1,400-plus. But a David vs. Goliath scenario is nothing new in Narragansett.

“There were only 95 (students) in my senior class,” said Matt Blessing, who was a star quarterback for Mariners in 1989 and ’90. “We have always been one of the smallest schools, but we have 38 players on this year’s team and they are committed players.”

Last year the Mariners struggled to a 2-5 Division III record in an injury plagued season that ended with only 21 players able to dress for games. There even was some talk that maybe the Mariners should drop down to Division IV and play against the other small schools in the state.

But Narragansett football has always relished the challenge of playing “above its weight class.”

“After last season we were a little concerned that, with our small enrollment, maybe Division IV is where we belong,” said Matt Blessing. “But this group this season has brought us back onto good firm footing and we feel good about the future.”

Narragansett High Football coach Matt Blessing – Photo Courtesy Narragansett High

“We have a group of eight seniors, who have bought into this,” added the coach. “They are good athletes with great enthusiasm. To have a successful season, you have to have a couple of kids who really step-up with maturity and these guys have.”

Included among that corps of dedicated seniors, in addition to the coach’s son, is Brian Vaganek, a 6-4, 240-pound defensive end and linebacker, who has committed to Holy Cross.

“When he wraps you up, he brings a world of hurt,” Matt Blessing offered about Vaganek’s play on the defensive line.

Vaganek on one end of the defensive line and 6-6 senior Atticus Duncan on the other end have keyed a Narragansett defense that has limited opponents to an average of only 8.5 points per game in the Mariners five League games.

“This year we introduced the idea that we are a “We-Not-Me” program,” said Matt Blesssing who is in his third year as the Mariners head coach. “It has become the motto of this team. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonsense in the hallway or whatever. The message is the same – think about the team not yourself.”

It has become part of the Narragansett football tradition.

“The We-Not-Me” atmosphere has changed the way we respond in the locker room and on the field,” said Duncan.

“Coming from one of the smallest schools in the state in the smallest state in the county. This is special,” Vaganek offered about Narragansett football.

History and tradition aren’t lost on a group of Narragansett teenagers.

Catch the Pilgrim @ Narragansett football game on YurView LIVE this Friday November 1 at 7:00pm on Cox Channel 4 and streaming on YurView.com