The play that won Friday’s crucial game against Coventry didn’t develop the way Warwick Vets coaches drew it up. Four years ago, the player at the center of it would have panicked. He might have run for his life, but he probably wouldn’t have eluded any tacklers and he certainly wouldn’t have found a receiver in the end zone for the game-winning two-point conversion.
“No way,” Jesse Sedoma said.
That Sedoma rescued the play – and perhaps Vets’ playoff hopes – this time speaks to his transformation. Once a gangly freshman getting a shot on varsity and taking his lumps for a struggling program, Sedoma has become one of the best quarterbacks in Division II and perhaps the most valuable player on a resurgent team.
“He’s come a long way,” said Vets head coach Mike Nappa. “He’s matured as a player, and his skills are hard to defend. He’s become a much better player.”
Sedoma’s rise has been intertwined with his team’s. Vets was at rock bottom when his career began, mired in a two-year winless streak. Handing the keys to a freshman quarterback didn’t seem to be the best way out, but there he was. Sedoma had his ups-and-downs as a part-time starter in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he took a leap forward when the ’Canes did last year. Sedoma became a viable offensive threat and Vets nearly made the playoffs.
“The team has helped me grow and we’ve all come together now,” Sedoma said. “We’re all a family.”
That environment seemed a long way off when Sedoma first donned a Vets uniform, but the coaching staff always felt that the raw freshman would someday help pilot a resurgence. That’s why Sedoma became just the fifth freshman to play varsity in Nappa’s tenure.
“He needed time and we didn’t want that learning year to happen in his sophomore year,” Nappa said. “We said, ‘Let him take his lumps now and he’ll be better for it.’”
Sedoma had played football with Warwick PAL, but the gap between the youth ranks and the high school varsity game is not small.
“I was scared,” Sedoma said. “Everyone was bigger than me. It was crazy – just the tempo of the game and everything. I just tried to do my thing.”
But for Sedoma, the adjustment period was about more than just football. He admits he didn’t have the best mindset in his first two years with the program.
“I was a little brat,” Sedoma said. “I wasn’t the nicest kid but I’ve changed.”
A talk with Nappa helped the cause.
“I sat him down and talked to him about what it takes to be an average athlete, a good athlete or a great athlete,” Nappa said. “He listened, and now he’s on the path to being a great athlete.”
The attitude adjustment helped Sedoma’s abilities shine through. He improved in the passing game and really made strides as a runner, consistently showing the ability to escape tacklers and break free for big gains.
His success even prompted a scheme change. Vets went to a pistol formation and an option-heavy attack this season, primarily to take advantage of Sedoma’s strengths. He’s responded and has been Vets’ leading rusher in the team’s 2-1 start to league play.
“He has unique talents,” Nappa said. “He can do both, passing and running, and you don’t see a lot of kids who can do both at the high school level. Without his scrambling, we wouldn’t have beaten Coventry.”
Sedoma is also the team’s punter and kicker, and his punting has become one of the team’s strengths.
“Those are the hidden yards, the kick return and punt return yards,” Nappa said. “He doesn’t have many return yards against him this year. He’s a weapon for us.”
In the win over Coventry, Sedoma lined up to kick an extra-point in the final minutes. He had just thrown a touchdown pass and the kick would tie the game.
Instead, Vets opted to go for two, but things quickly went awry. The snap was supposed to go to the holder, who would flip it to Sedoma. Instead, it went directly to Sedoma.
Sedoma managed to hold onto the ball, and he quickly snapped into action. He ran right, then reversed it back to the left. A tackler had him lined up, but Sedoma juked around him, kept his eyes on the end zone and lofted a perfect pass to Jeremy Morrissette.
Vets won 28-27.
“That wasn’t meant to happen,” Sedoma said. “I don’t know. I just went with my instinct. I went back around, saw Jeremy and just threw it. It was awesome.”
The win was huge. Vets is now in a four-way tie for second place in Division II-A. A loss would have made a playoff bid significantly tougher.
“We’re feeling good because that got us closer to a playoff spot,” Sedoma said. “We’re just going to keep working hard and see what happens this week.”
And Sedoma will keep delivering plays, four years in the making.
“It was a learning process, but I adapted,” Sedoma said. “Now I’m here, trying to lead us to a championship.”