Pilgrim second-year head coach Blake Simpson and his unbeaten, No. 1 seeded Patriots are headed to the Division III Super Bowl for the second year in a row after defeating the No. 4 seeded Narragansett Mariners 30-12 at Pilgrim High School on Friday night under the lights during their semifinal matchup.
Pilgrim had already beaten the Mariners during the regular season, but it wouldn’t have meant much if they didn’t win this game too. Therefore, the Pats got right to work.
Senior Ethan Laramee returned the game’s opening kickoff 72 yards to pay dirt, and that gave Pilgrim an almost immediate 6-0 advantage. Next, Mike Borges, the Pats senior quarterback, rushed in the two-point conversion and upped the Pilgrim margin to 8-0.
“This one was the big one,” Simpson said. “You don’t want to be the higher seed at home and fizzle out (in the) first round of the playoffs. So, the way we opened up the game with a kickoff-return touchdown. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to set the tone.”
“We knew what was on the line,” Laramee added. “This is the first playoff game that’s been at this school, I think ever, if not in a really long time. We rose to the occasion. I’m not trying to brag, but the kickoff-return, that really set the tone. It’s always nice when you have a lead. Just coming out here playing with a lead, it makes everything else that much easier and I’m just glad we could take it home today.”
Narragansett got into the red zone during its second drive after senior running back Atticus Duncan rushed for 49 yards on the first two downs and brought the ball to the Pats 11. Three plays later, the running back took it in for the score from two yards out and got the Mariners within two at 8-6. Edward Blessing was denied on his two-point conversion keeper attempt after that.
Pilgrim answered during its next possession when on a second-and-2, Demitri Ayres, a senior running back, rushed up the middle 31 yards to the Mariners 1. Next, Ayres rushed into the end zone from one yard out and increased the Pats buffer to 14-6. Then, Borges passed to Cesar Pascual, a senior, in pay dirt for the two points after and that extended the Pilgrim lead to 16-6.
With 1:13 remaining in the second quarter, Pilgrim ballooned its cushion to 22-6 when sophomore running back Danny Halliwell ran in a touchdown from three yards out. After that, Borges ran right and into the house for the two-point conversion and that upped the Pilgrim advantage to 24-6.
Duncan rushed in his second touchdown from two yards out with 5:13 remaining in the third frame and inched the Mariners within 24-12.
But with 8:26 left in the fourth quarter, Ayres rushed in his second score, this one from 50 yards deep and it expanded the Pats margin to 30-12.
After the game, Laramee, a slotback, free safety, and kickoff returner, gave the team a 12-hour window to enjoy the victory before the team began to prepare for Tolman, who Pilgrim will face Saturday at 4 p.m. in the D-III Championship game at Cranston Stadium.
Last year, the Pats defeated the Tigers in the semifinals before falling to Central Falls in the championship by a final score of 14-10.
“I’m feeling confident,” Laramee said. “They’re a really good team, but I feel like we’re going to have all the puzzle pieces together. And we have the heart from last year, so, I think we’re going to come through.”