Coming off a winless season in 2009, the Warwick Vets football team thought it would start moving in the right direction last year.
Instead, the ’Canes went another year without a win.
But this year, from the first day of practice on, head coach Mike Nappa has seen a team that’s not just trying to move in the right direction.
He sees a team that’s determined.
“It’s a big improvement just in the kids themselves,” Nappa said. “I think they’ve turned the corner. They’re working at a good pace, and they’re doing things properly. That’s going to lead to winning because you win in your preparation. They’ve decided what they want this year. It’s just a matter of them keeping the pace up, taking the adversity and attacking it.”
There’s bound to be adversity – the ’Canes lost some key players and have plenty of unknowns – but they believe they’re up to the challenge.
“It’s a whole new attitude,” said senior John Leonard. “It’s a whole different team.”
And the optimism was there from day one.
“We’re working harder than the past couple of years,” said senior Nick Salois. “We’re forming together as a team – no individuals. First day out here, you could see it.”
That’s a positive first step for the ’Canes. If all goes according to plan, it’ll set the stage for a team with some talent to start making waves.
Vets has 56 players on the varsity roster, about a dozen more than it had last season. From those numbers, Nappa envisions a deep team that will have no shortage of competition.
It starts at the quarterback spot, where the ’Canes have three players ready to contribute. Each brings something different to the table, and the ’Canes may use all of them.
Sophomore Jessie Sedoma returns after seeing significant varsity action as a freshman. He’s a threat to throw and run.
Another sophomore, Danny Greaves, is up from the freshman team, and he brings a similar skill set to the position.
Then there’s the wildcard. Diego Trevino is an exchange student who was an option quarterback at his school in Mexico.
“We’ve got three quarterbacks and they do three different things well,” Nappa said. “We’ve got three different offenses we can run – option, spread, power. I think we can make it tough on teams.”
Trevino, in particular, could give Vets a very different look.
“He runs the option so well,” Nappa said. “I was standing on the defensive side and he actually faked me out a couple of times. He’s got very, very good speed.”
Whoever is at the controls of the offense will have plenty of help from the backfield, too. Senior running back Sean Banno is back for his third year on the varsity squad, while junior T.J. Boyajian is back for a second season. Both have big-play ability. The running back corps also includes sophomores David McDonald and Dennis Scalzo, with several other players also pushing for time.
“We’ve got a lot of kids and they’re all fast and strong,” Nappa said. “I think we can do a lot with them.”
Salois returns on the line, while Joe Chadwick and Casey Beauregard also bring some experience to the table.
On defense, Nappa is excited about the team’s depth. At the linebacker spot, he has nine players he’s comfortable with.
In the defensive backfield, Leonard and fellow senior Fred Pierce return as starters.
At every spot, though, the competition is strong.
“We’re much stronger and bigger than we’ve been physically,” Nappa said. “I’m impressed with their ability at this point. The seniors understand that it’s a competitive game. It’s not a given that you’re going to play. That’s what competition does.”
Ultimately, the ’Canes hope that will make them stronger. It’s certainly upped the ante so far.
“They’re absorbing so much that we’re about two weeks ahead of where I would have figured,” Nappa said.
Now the ’Canes get to see where that takes them. They’ll play an Injury Fund game on Sept. 2 before their annual non-league match-up with Toll Gate on Sept. 10.
The ’Canes know turning things around won’t be easy, but for now, they’re doing everything they can to make it happen.
“We can’t control the score, but we can control the practices and the pace you go at and how hard you work,” Nappa said. “If you use that same pace in practice, you’re going to win.”