The radar is a funny thing, because it doesn’t really exist. It’s all perception. Teams often say that they’re “flying under the radar,” but all it takes is a few people in the media to start the hype machine or one big win and the radar turns completely on its head.
I asked Warwick Vets head football coach Mike Nappa if he thought his team was flying under the radar after the Hurricanes destroyed Toll Gate 35-0 last Friday.
“Yes, and we’d like to keep it that way,” Nappa said with a laugh.
Sorry, Mike. Your cover is blown.
Vets is good, and I can’t keep the secret any longer. People might read this and take it with a grain of salt because of the ’Canes’ struggles in the past, but this is now and these aren’t the same old ’Canes.
The Rhode Island Sports Media Poll has been out for three weeks now, and not once has Vets been ranked in the top 20 in the state. This week, at least, they’re the last team out, the 21st team in a 20-team poll.
Still, they should be in there. Johnston is 0-1 and West Warwick is 0-1, and they both have a spot in the poll. but not Vets. East Greenwich, Mt. Pleasant and Moses Brown all play Division III, and they’re in the poll. But not Vets.
It’s a lack of respect, and it probably – irrationally – comes from the last few years.
The ’Canes haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, and they won only four games over the next four seasons. After they went winless in 2009 and 2010, no one took them seriously last year, even though they won three games and nearly made the playoffs. It was like they were invisible.
It’s more of the same this year. People still see Vets and think it’s a lower-tier Division II team.
I see Vets and think it’s an upper-tier Division II team. So do their players, and they don’t care what the radar says.
“We don’t care about that,” senior quarterback Jessie Sedoma said last Friday. “This is our family right here.”
It’s been an outstanding start to the season for Vets, probably better than it could have hoped. It beat Toll Gate in its Injury Fund game 12-0, beat PCD/Wheeler/Juanita Sanchez 46-21 in week one and then beat the Titans again in league play last week.
The ’Canes led 40-0 at halftime against PCD before calling off the dogs. Combined, in 10 quarters of football, Vets’ first-teamers have outscored their opponents 87-0.
Yet here they are, still staring up at the radar.
Sure, their opponents haven’t been great. PCD is a Division IV team, and Toll Gate hasn’t won a game in Division II since 2010.
But that same Toll Gate team put up 18 points against Cranston East in week one, the same Cranston East team that’s ranked No. 2 in the poll and received two first-place votes.
In that Toll Gate-East game, Toll Gate had a 75-yard touchdown run against East’s first-team defense.
Vets held Toll Gate to just 83 total yards … for the game.
I haven’t seen that written about anywhere else, or talked about anywhere else, or even noticed anywhere else.
Such is life in the radar’s shadow.
Apparently, the only way that Vets is going to get recognition as a legitimate Division II playoff team is to beat somebody already regarded as a legitimate Division II playoff team. They’ll have their chance this week, and if I haven’t already exposed Vets, a win on Friday will certainly do the trick.
The ’Canes host Woonsocket – the No. 6 team in the state, according to the poll, and the top-ranked D-II team. The Villa Novans sit just behind D-I power La Salle and ahead of D-I teams South Kingstown and Cranston West.
They’re most certainly on the radar, and they’re Vets’ ticket to relevancy. If not Woonsocket, then Coventry next week, a team that is ranked No. 20 in the poll and is 1-0 in D-II.
The ’Canes can’t hide forever. Once they beat one of the teams ahead of them in perception – and they will – they’ll be right where they belong.
“We’re definitely kind of under the radar,” senior fullback/linebacker David MacDonald said. “Nobody really thinks about us.”
Just wait. Soon enough, the secret will be out.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.