With two rough games in the books, the Pilgrim football team could use a fresh start.
The Pats will get it this week.
When they hop on the bus Saturday, they’ll be embarking on an unfamiliar trip. They’ll visit North Kingstown, a longtime Division I team that has moved to D-II this year.
The Pats and Skippers have little football history. It may be a challenge as far as scouting reports go, but for the Pats, the unfamiliarity dovetails perfectly with a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over.
It comes at a good time.
“We knew we were going to have growing pains,” said Pilgrim head coach Tom O’Connor. “We didn’t think they were going to be this big at this point. We’re lining up wrong and not executing to what we should be doing, never mind what needs to be done.”
That’s made for a rough start.
With new starters at nearly every position, Pilgrim lost its non-league opener by a 33-12 score to Division IV Smithfield. The Pats had lost in week one to a lower-division team in 2011 before putting together their best season in years, so there was reason to believe they might quickly turn things around.
Instead, Shea came to town last Friday and buried the Pats. Bad field position and offensive struggles opened the door for Shea to dominate the early going, and the Raiders did just that. They led 35-0 at halftime, and the game was called soon after because of a problem with the field.
The Pats went back to work this week, knowing that things won’t get a whole lot easier. Their next three games are against North Kingstown, Central and West Warwick. North Kingstown is 1-1 overall, Central has been a powerhouse in recent years, and West Warwick has out-scored opponents 54-13 in two wins.
“We’ve got a tough first part of the schedule,” O’Connor said. “It doesn’t get any easier for us, being this young. They’re all quality teams and every team is improving.”
North Kingstown seems to fit that mold. While the Skippers lost to West Warwick 34-13 in their league opener, they were coming off a 33-6 victory over Coventry in a non-league game the week before. That was a welcome change for the Skippers, who hadn’t won a game since 2008.
The Skippers’ counterparts in D-II weren’t surprised.
“North Kingstown had a tough go of it up in Division I lately, but they were up there for a reason,” O’Connor said.
As they prepare for Saturday’s match-up, the Pats won’t have the benefit of knowledge gained in years past, as is the case against most of their other D-II rivals. They’ll know only what they’ve seen in two game films.
“Old scouting reports – we don’t have the advantage of having those,” O’Connor said. “We’re basing everything off the one film we saw. Now we’ll have two films to see. Our scouting report is not as in-depth as we usually have.”
But at this point for Pilgrim, what the opponent does may be less important than what the Pats do themselves. They’re focusing on improvement and they’ll worry later about where it takes them.
They hope Saturday’s fresh start is the first step.
“We’ll focus on the baby steps – execution, line picking up the right guy, wrapping up,” O’Connor said. “It’s doing the little things right so we can take bigger steps once we get those down pat.”
Saturday’s game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at North Kingstown.