The Pilgrim football program is entering its second season with Head Coach Rob Pacifico at the helm, and the Pats are certainly entering year No. 2 with a higher level of familiarity, both with the coaching staff and the systems that it preaches.
“We’re happy and excited about where we’re at,” Pacifico said. “We came together pretty quickly this year. Year two with me, the kids know what to expect with me and there aren’t any secrets. There’s no ‘Who’s this guy coming in the door?’”
Pilgrim should be prepared for the fall after an offseason that featured a strength training program, a passing league at East Greenwich on Friday nights over the summer and a passing tournament at the University of Rhode Island at the end of July.
“It was pretty good,” Pacifico said of the passing tournament. “It was heavy Connecticut with some of the better teams from Connecticut. It was a good look.”
The Pats graduated some key contributors from their offense in quarterback James McKay, running back Nate Ferri and wide receiver Ty Weldon-Martin. However, Pilgrim looks to be in good shape with a plethora of talent set to command the offense this season.
Senior James Baldwin will take over for McKay at the quarterback position. Seniors Simon Davis and Kyle Ford will handle a bulk of the running back duties, while senior Josh Morin, junior Jaron Petrozzi, senior Austin Connors and senior Steven Rosa will highlight a loaded receiving core.
“We put in a new offense, and we’re happy with it,” Pacifico said. “We’re comfortable, now we just need to see where we’re at and what parts we need to regroup at.”
The offensive line will be a work in progress, with five new faces set to start for the Pats as four of their starters from a season ago graduated. Pacifico noted that the talent is there on the offensive line, but game reps are needed.
Davis and Ford will also be key in the defensive backfield, alongside Morin.
Pacifico will rely on senior defensive tackles Tyler Vierra and Zac Fagundes to disrupt opposing running games up front.
“We have a good core of kids coming back who played defense last year,” Pacifico said. “Our defense should be a strength. We’re in the process of getting defensive ends and one linebacker caught up to speed, but everyone else came in knowing the defensive system ready to go after learning it last year.”
Pilgrim will open its season with a non-league contest at North Providence on Friday, Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. Its schedule will also feature a non-league game against Smithfield, and it will play Division II adversaries Middletown, East Greenwich, Westerly, Johnston, Moses Brown, West Warwick and Mount Pleasant. The Pats will then play their annual Thanksgiving game against Toll Gate on Nov. 23.
After a strong start last fall, Pilgrim struggled down the stretch, missing the playoffs. But, with an offseason full of preparation behind them, the Pats are confident that they’re up for the challenge of a highly-competitive Division II.
“We knew we had the talent to compete in Division II last year,” Pacifico said. “We were just brought together quickly and some of the kids were making the jump from Division III to Division II. A lot of those kids didn’t realize the difference between Division II and Division III. Kids are bigger, faster and stronger. Those things were part of the learning curve.”