Mike Nappa decided to cut Friday’s practice a little bit short for his Warwick Vets football team to give the players some extra time to rest before Saturday’s first full-padded practice.
In a preseason with strictly monitored time limits, and not a whole lot of days before the regular season, a shortened practice doesn’t always seem like the best way to do business.
But when a team has done as well as Vets has over the first five days, an exception was in order.
“We said we’ll cut today’s practice short because we’ve accomplished so much,” Nappa said. “Why burn them if you’ve already done it.”
With schematic changes all over the field and some new faces to break in, as well as Nappa returning to the sidelines after missing last season with health issues, the ’Canes haven’t missed a beat thus far in the early going. They’re absorbing the new information, and the additions to the team are already making their presence felt.
Add 18 seniors to the mix who don’t need much help fitting in, and Vets feels pretty strongly about its present performance and its season outlook.
“I think it’s been great,” Nappa said. “We’ve got some kids that came out this year that are going to help us with depth or be starters. Kids came out, and they’ve done a great job preparing.”
The positive attitude in camp is also, in part, due to momentum. While Vets didn’t make the playoffs last season, it had its best campaign since 2008, going 3-4 and remaining in contention until the regular season’s final game.
It then went on to beat Pilgrim on Thanksgiving, capping a real resurgence. Many of the players from that team are still playing, and nobody wants to take a step back.
“We’re upbeat,” Nappa said. “The kids are confident. You see a difference. There’s just a difference in the attitude of the kids.”
The biggest subtraction from last year’s team is star running back T.J. Boyajian, who was Vets’ biggest offensive weapon for the past three seasons. On certain days, the gameplan was just to run Boyajian, and on many of those days it worked.
The ’Canes, however, have no choice but to turn the page. So that’s what they’re doing.
“I told the coaches, we don’t mention his name,” Nappa said. “Not because we don’t want the kid, but we’re the team we are, and we have to build on that. Several years ago we lost (star quarterback Bobby Bentsen) and it was ‘Bobby did this, Bobby did that.’”
Vets has other players it wants to concentrate on.
Tops amongst those is senior quarterback Jessie Sedoma, who has started under center for part of the last three seasons, this being his fourth.
A strong scrambler who had his best season last year, Sedoma is going to be in charge of piloting a revamped Vets offense that will mostly feature just one running back.
“We’re going to utilize him for the skills that he has,” Nappa said. “He’s a very good runner, and we’re going to utilize that a lot more. He throws well on the corners, and we’ll utilize that more.”
That one running back spot will be manned by a mix of players, but in the team’s base set it will be fullback David MacDonald. A standout a year ago, the senior is a force both offensively and defensively – where he plays inside linebacker – and is one of the most physically imposing players in the division.
“David’s been to two or three camps,” Nappa said. “There’s some good schools looking at him now. He’s 220. He’s a big boy.”
Junior Mickenzey Pacheco, newcomer Kyle Agin and senior Dennis Scalzo – MacDonald’s inside linebacker-mate – will also see time in the backfield. Unfortunately for Vets, Jamie Buteau, a sophomore who contributed last year, moved to Florida. Junior Austin Lamaire will also get a look in the back, and he’ll serve as the back-up to Sedoma at quarterback. Sophomore Nick Beaufort can also play quarterback.
At the receiver spots, Nappa has a loaded group. Agin will play there, as will senior Will Remak, who decided to play this season and is a star on both the basketball and volleyball courts. Remak is well over 6-feet, as is Jacob Isaac, a sophomore who also should make a big impact.
Scott Camara, another basketball player out this year, will also play receiver, as will senior brothers Kyle and Jeremy Morrissette.
“We’re pretty happy,” Nappa said. “My son and I were arguing about my philosophy and his philosophy to come up with a position rotation.”
Many of those players will be two-way guys in the secondary and at linebacker, where Nappa is hoping to play more man coverage in order to free up the front group to wreak some havoc.
Both Morrissettes, Camara, Agin and Pacheco will play in the secondary.
“We’re going to be totally different,” Nappa said. “We’re going to more of a five-front. We’re using our athletic ability at linebacker and DB’s. We can go games totally man and just put all kinds of pressure on because we have five kids who can play man-up.”
At linebacker, to go with Scalzo and MacDonald, Remak will play, as will senior Tim Hogan.
On the defensive line, seniors Hogan, Oliver Sylvestre and Bruno Parente will switch in on the defensive line, among others. Those three will also rotate in at tackle on the offensive side of the ball.
The other three offensive line spots belong to junior Connor Thompson at center, and seniors Luke Cardillo and Ricky Antonio at the guard spots.
“Our size is better than it was last year,” Nappa said. “We’re bigger up front than we’ve been. We’re very pleased.”
Really, there’s a lot to be pleased about.
Other than the loss of Boyajian, Nappa thinks that just about everything might be better this year – and that includes a leap into the playoffs.
Vets hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2008, when it went 5-2. There are no guarantees that this is the year either, but the program certainly seems to be on an upward trend.
These are enjoyable days at Warwick Vets.
“I think we can qualify for playoffs, that’s our goal,” Nappa said. “Be in the top four and see what happens from there.”