NARRAGANSETT — Quite a lot, please give us more non-league games like this one on Friday night at Zepp Field.
South Kingstown and Narragansett are a far cry from some lopsided Thanksgiving pageants in the 1990s. They’re two shows currently on something close to an equal footing, and 48 minutes of action was barely enough to separate them.
Amani Boamah’s 3-yard touchdown run with 4:40 left closed the difference. The Rebels cruised to a 23-20 victory in front of a crowd that packed the stands and sat on the hillside overlooking the grass field.
“It just builds our character,” Boamah said. “It’s great for the team.”
South Kingstown is expected to push the contenders into Division II and could have opted for a lighter set-up before battling Woonsocket next week. But realistically, what would the Rebels have learned about themselves while dominating a glorified scrimmage? The Mariners were pretty spirited after a pair of Super Bowl championships and were preparing to take on a reconfigured Division III.
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“The South kids know the Narragansett kids,” South Kingstown coach Gerry Zannella said. “They grew up playing minor league and recreational basketball. The game against whoever, that is something that is forgotten.
Mekhi Wilson had a pair of rushing touchdowns and 107 rushing yards to bring Narragansett to the brink of a mild upset. If the name sounds familiar, it should be: He’s one of the best two-way players in the state and has a unique connection to this rivalry. Wilson’s father, Mike, was a star quarterback and running back for South Kingstown as they hung eight straight losses over the Mariners between 1992 and 1999.
“I definitely want to see them succeed,” said Mekhi Wilson. “I have family on that side, I want to see them go crazy on D-II.
“But I just don’t like losing at all. It’s terrible.”
Wilson’s 4-yarder down the middle with 10:29 left gave Narragansett their only lead of the night at 20-16. He came in after spending most of the third quarter on the bench due to leg cramps: players on both sides fell victim to them throughout. He was talking about the nervous energy and physical toll that a matchup like this can take on a high school athlete’s body.
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“It was a survivor’s game and they came out victorious,” Narragansett coach Matt Blessing said. “We were there. Our guys didn’t give up.”
The Rebels committed turnovers on three straight possessions in the second half before improvising the critical drive. They called a timeout looking at fourth-and-goal inside the Mariners 5-yard line and originally planned to run a play between the tackles. Boamah, the explosive junior receiver, asked to line up behind quarterback Rian O’Rourke.
“When I get the ball, it goes to the end zone,” Boamah said. “That’s all I know.”
Boamah ran to the far right and found enough daylight to break up the plane. It was his second touchdown of the night: O’Rourke found him for a 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter to put South Kingstown on the scoreboard. The senior quarterback hit Phoenix Sward for another second-quarter touchdown to give the Rebels a 14-13 halftime lead.
“Expectations are high,” Zannella said. “We play a certain way, this is what we do. This is what we stand for.”
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Narragansett had a 10-8 lead in the old Christmas series before the momentum changed for good. South Kingstown won four games in a row by a combined 70-0 and added another four wins totaling 140-48. The Mariners moved on to play in East Greenwich beginning in 2000 and the Rebels found a matchup against another rival in North Kingstown.
Fast-forward two decades and we’re back to the old days. Narragansett has built a yearly contender under Blessing and South Kingstown remains a team worthy of respect regardless of its place in the Interscholastic League pyramid. The Mariners suffered a 26-12 loss in this game last year and won the next 11 to complete a dream season.
“It’s very nice, honestly,” Wilson said. “It’s lovely. I like the intensity of it. I love every moment of it.”
South of Kingstown 7 7 2 7 – 23
Narraganset 6 7 0 7 – 20
SK – Amani Boamah 13 Rian O’Rourke pass (Kai Sorlien kick)
N – Mekhi Wilson 9 run (miss kick)
SK – Phoenix Sward 17 O’Rourke pass (Sorlien kick)
N – Jackson Monast 40 pass by Matthew Timpson (kick by Lucas Masson)
SK – Noah O’Hagan safety (QB sack in end zone)
N – Wilson 4 run (Masson kick)
SK – Boamah 3 run (Sorlien kick)
On Twitter: @BillKoch25