Football team pleased with season, despite missing playoffs
Last fall, Joe Gilmartin, head coach of the North Kingstown High football team, made it clear he wanted to take the competition one game at a time. He wasn’t ruling out a trip to the playoffs in 2013, but the plan was to work hard and see where the team stood at the end of the season.
Then his players went out on the field and turned in a winning season.
If the Skippers defeat South Kingstown in their final game on Thanksgiving Day, the squad will wrap up the season with a 10-2 record and a share of first place in Division II-B.
Those results have got to be satisfying for a program that’s struggled in recent years. The record also represents an incredible turnaround for a program that went 1-10 two years ago, said islander Bill Piva, assistant coach.
But the Skippers won’t have a storybook ending in 2013. Despite the winning record and great individual efforts, this team won’t make the playoffs.
According to senior Nick Chevalier, 17, the Skippers heard the bad news Nov. 8 after defeating Shea at home, 25-14.
Nick said the team had to overcome the disappointment.
“At that time, we had three more games,” the running back said. “We just had to bring it.”
So far, this season, Nick’s rushed for 396 yards and scored four touchdowns. He’s also made six receptions, two for scores.
Despite the bad news, the Skippers did continue to “bring it,” clobbering Warwick Vets Friday, 40-6. The final score didn’t quite capture the lopsided game, according to 17-year-old Tom Culhane.
“It was 40 to nothing until the last two seconds,” said Tom, a senior who plays guard and defensive tackle. “We executed everything right.
The game was probably North Kingstown’s best performance all season, but it was more than a game, according to Tom.
“We had to make a statement,” Tom said. “We didn’t get in the playoffs, and we should have been in. So we really played hard.”
Piva said the players were disappointed, and it was a tough break for the seniors. But who could have predicted five teams would tie for first place in Division-II B? The Rhode Island State Interscholastic League used the conference game results to calculate the seedings.
The Skippers placed fifth, he said, but only four Division II-B teams could go to the states.
“I don’t really agree with that at all,” said Matt Deignan, the senior quarterback. Matt, 17, said the league should have given playoff berths to the best eight teams in Division II, instead of taking the top four in Division II-A and the top four in Division II-B.
“It was a stinker we didn’t make it into the playoffs,” said Matthew Gauthier, 17. However, he said the team was determined to “finish with pride” and not let the league’s decision tarnish a successful year.
“We accomplished a ton of our goals,” he said.
The Skippers hope to close out the season with a victory over the 4-6 South Kingstown Rebels. Last year, the Skippers hosted the Thanksgiving Day game and defeated the Rebels. This year, the game is at the University of Rhode Island.
Ryan Durney, 17, a senior defensive end, said he figures North Kingstown has a good chance to make it two in a row over the Rebels even though S.K. is a Division I school.
“I’m looking just to have the Turkey Bowl cup still at North Kingstown for another year,” he said. “Just having a winning record is something for this school.”
The Skippers will study footage of the Rebels’ games as they prepare for Thanksgiving, Gilmartin told the team at practice Tuesday.
Defensive end Wyatt Fisher, 17, said he wants to end the season on a positive note, despite the disappointment about the playoffs.
“We came so close,” he said. “I think it was a really good season.”
According to Tim Murray, 17, senior middle linebacker, the real winner in 2013 will be the future football program at N.K.
“We grew as a program this year,” he said. “It’s going to be a good future for this program over the next few years.”
Tim said the West Warwick game that the Skippers won in double overtime seemed like the turning point.
“It was the first bog challenge we faced,” he said. “It was the first really good team.” When the Skippers won 28-22, he felt the squad had just proved they could compete with the top teams in the division.
“It ended up we became one of the best teams in the division,” he said.
Jared Ford is the only senior from Jamestown and the only islander in the starting lineup. He was not at practice yesterday because of an injury, Piva said.
Connor Horsley, 17, said he also played four years at North Kingstown High and enjoyed the homecoming game against Central High. Connor is a senior and plays defensive tackle. He went through the program’s lean times, but this homecoming game is the first one North Kingstown High won in his entire school career.
“It was great to show the kids we grew up with,” he said.
David Collins, 17, also played for the Skippers all four years.
“I’m glad the program’s back to what it used to be,” he said. ”It’s a great feeling.”
Corey Coogan, 17, caught one of the long passes that a TV sportscaster nominated for the play of the week. Corey laughed and admitted he couldn’t really remember the catch.
There was a reason for that, said teammate Evin Barrett, 17. “He scores too many times.”
Corey rushed for 725 yards and scored 10 touchdowns this season.
Randy Sherwood, 17, said his best game was against East Greenwich because he scored his first touchdown.
“We were just driving it down the field,” Randy said. “We ran it right down the middle, and I got in. That was everything. That one moment.”