Pilgrim @ Narragansett: What you need to know

Narragansett’s Eddie Blessing with the ball – Photo Credit: the Independentri.com

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

On the surface, it doesn’t get any better than this – two undefeated R.I. high school football teams vying for the regular-season division title on the first Friday in November.

It will be a big one under the lights at the Narragansett Community Athletic Complex when Pilgrim (6-0, Division III) travels to face Narragansett (5-0, Division III) in a 7 p.m. kickoff. The winner will own the distinction as the best regular season team in D-III along with being the top seed in the upcoming four-team playoff tournament.

“There’s no better time of the year to have two undefeated teams playing for a division title,” said Pilgrim head coach Blake Simpson.

Last year, Pilgrim reached the D-III Super Bowl but fell to Central Falls. That bitter taste stuck with the players and coaches throughout the offseason and carried over during the Patriots’ perfect start to the season.

“They’re itching to get back there and go one step further ever since last season ended,” said Simpson.

For Narragansett, the matchup with Pilgrim represents the biggest regular season game in quite a number of years.

“We’ve had our eye on Pilgrim, knowing that it could potentially be a big game,” said Narragansett head coach Matt Blessing, a former All-State quarterback for the Mariners.

Who should fans (and Yurview viewers) keep an eye on? Ask and you shall receive. Below is a checklist to help you get game ready. Let’s begin with the away team.

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When Pilgrim Passes:

Quarterback Mike Borges is one of 20 seniors on the Patriots’ roster. This year, his pass completion percentage is over 60 percent. He’s just as capable when it comes to taking off with the football. In Pilgrim’s come-from-behind 16-14 win over Tolman on Oct. 11, Borges ran for two scores after the Tigers initially led 14-0 after one quarter.

“He’s a bigger quarterback who’s built like a linebacker. He’s tough to bring down … it takes more than one guy,” said Simpson.

When Borges surveys the field upon dropping back to pass, he’s looking for senior tight end Connor Fallon and senior receiver Ethan Laramee.

“Connor is a big threat in our pass game while Ethan lines up in the slot,” said Simpson.

When Pilgrim Runs:

Senior Dimitri Ayres is the Patriots’ lead running back who right now is averaging over six yards per carry.

“He’s our scat back who’s definitely a threat,” said Simpson. “He’s quick on his feet … one move and go.”

Senior Cesar Pascual complements Ayres perfectly.

“He’s our bull. When we need a two-yard gain, we’re going to put it in his hands and watch him run north to south,” said Simpson.

L-R Pilgrim football head coach Blake Simpson, senior captains Dikran Krikorian, Ethan Laramee, Ethan Asadorian, Adam Ferrara, Connor Fallon – Photo Credit: Brendan McGair

When Pilgrim is on Defense:

The Patriots funnel their defensive strategies through Laramee, the free safety who’s in charge of making sure everyone lines up in the correct spot.

“He’s very vocal and was actually a junior captain and is now a senior captain,” said Simpson. “He knows everyone’s position on every call.”

Senior Owen O’Sullivan is the key to the Patriots’ defensive front; he lines up along the edge as part of a 3-3 stack alignment. Also playing close to the line of scrimmage are seniors William Kneebone and Dikran Krikorian.

Featured at linebacker are seniors Cesar Pascual, Adam Ferrara, and Fallon along with sophomore Danny Halliwell. At strong safety, Pilgrim turns to sophomore Brady Burke. Lining up at the two cornerback spots are seniors Ethan Asadorian and Joe Rapa.

When Pilgrim is on Special Teams:

Ayres is called upon when the Patriots line up in punt formation. On kickoffs, point-after tries, and field goals, Pilgrim looks to Austin Kilduff, who’s also a member of his school’s varsity boys’ soccer team.

Laramee is the top choice on punt returns with Ayres also in the mix. The same two players will shoulder the load on kickoff returns. Depending on the game situation, Simpson will put senior Dylan Gallagher back there on kickoffs.

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When Narragansett Passes:

Coach Blessing’s son doubles as the Mariners’ starting quarterback. Now a senior, Eddie Blessing has been a three-year starter under center. Last year, as a junior, young Blessing missed significant time due to a hip injury, a development that played a significant hand in Narragansett’s league win total dipping from five victories in 2017 to two wins in 2018.

“We’ve used a few [offensive] systems. Now, we’re back to one we used during his sophomore year,” said Coach Blessing.

Narragansett is flush with pass-catching options, from senior Colby Corson, to sophomores Tyler Poirier, Jared Chaloux, and B.J. Richards. Seniors Wayne LaBore and Jimmy Fiorillo line up at tight end.

“We have a lot of sophomores who have a lot athleticism and talent,” said Coach Blessing. “We move the ball around and that’s been a big part in our success. It’s so important for our guys to understand the route concepts in order to open space for their teammates. It’s not always going to be your night. From Day 1, we said this team was going to be about ‘we’ and not ‘me.’”

Narragansett’s Atticus Duncan – Photo Credit: the Independentri.com

When Narragansett Runs:

Like many R.I. teams, Narragansett will bounce it to the outside on toss sweeps. When the time comes to grind out those tough yards, senior Atticus Duncan is the unquestioned choice.

“He carries the load inside and has also given teams fits out of the backfield,” said Coach Blessing about Duncan, who will continue his football career at Holy Cross next year.

Also in line to receive carries are Richards, Poirier, and sophomore Jared Chaloux. Blessing is also a threat to take off from the QB spot.

When Narragansett is on Defense:

Like the Patriots, the Mariners also employ a 3-3 stack system. The unit’s strength can be found at linebacker, with Duncan – listed at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds – and senior Brian Vagnaek responsible for making sure the edges are set. Sophomore Reider Fry and Fiorillo are two additional linebackers to keep an eye on.

Eddie Blessing lines up at free safety spot but will move around in the event he’s been tasked with slowing down a specific player. Closer to the line of scrimmage, the Mariners count on senior Jayme Xaykosy and sophomore Colin Flynn to get penetration.

When Narragansett is on Special Teams:

Blessing handles all aspects of the kicking game. On kickoff returns, the Mariners will feature some combination that includes Richards, Poirier, and Chaloux. The same three players are also the top three options on punt returns.

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