N.S./MSC football tries to navigate through early COVID cases

N.S./MSC football tries to navigate through early COVID cases

Sophomore quarterback Cole Vowels is back under center for the North Smithfield/Mount Saint Charles co-op team, which last spring, posted a 2-2 record and reached the Division III semifinals. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Staying in Division III after making the playoffs during the spring season, the North Smithfield/Mount St. Charles Academy co-op football team has a new head coach and have started out the season behind the eight ball with COVID.

Jeff Paiva has been on the staff as an assistant coach for the last six years and jumped up to the helm after the “Fall II” football season during the spring, replacing Wes Pennington.

“I’m familiar with the kids,” Paiva said. “We went through the summer as if nothing had changed.”

Day two of official practices had one player leaving feeling under the weather and later tested positive for COVID. Once going through the protocols, the Northmen/Mounties were able to practice again as about a third of their team is vaccinated, Paiva said. As players records were confirmed or COVID tests came back negative, they were able to return and they are just about at full strength.

The Injury Fund game last Friday was canceled as they could not meet the minimum number of practices they needed to play a game but lucked out as their first official game won’t be until Friday, Sept. 17 with a first-week bye. By then they are hoping to have 30-32 players on the roster.

“It’s been a bumpy ride to start,” Paiva said.

To add to the chaos, North Smithfield will not have a home game for the first six weeks as their field is being redone. They have practiced on the baseball field but were forced to the parking lot after the previous hurricane and remnants of tropical storms flooded out the fields.

N.S/Mount is still a co-op but Paiva said the numbers from Mount are down. They have about three or four Mounties, the rest coming from North Smithfield. They have graduated a high number of seniors the past two years so this year they have six players coming back who have seen time on the varsity team. Paiva said they have three starters and three players who saw snaps.

Junior Cole Vowels returns as the starting quarterback.

“He’s grown a little bit and learned a lot,” Paiva said about Vowels. “I’m looking for him to take the reigns on offense.”

Two returning seniors who will be captains are Nate Tessier and Cole Skinner. Tessier played tight end in the past but will be a receiver this year while Skinner was the center and has been moved to tight end. Senior running back Declan Curran also returns as does receiver Zack Kerrigan.

Paiva said his most experienced positions are on the offensive line in juniors Abdul Shaker and CJ Rapoza, who were both Second Team All-Division last year. Also on the line are Alvendz Viera Dones and Dereck Cruz.

Having played a few months ago in the spring season, Paiva said his players still had football on their minds but with the shortened season last year, they did not have a JV schedule. Paiva said the younger kids practiced but did not see any time in live games. So those players may be slightly behind.

“Our goal is to get these younger guys a taste of what high school football is supposed to be about,” Paiva said. “Being part of a family of 32-35 guys. When you work hard everyone works hard. From there, the games should take care of themselves.”

He added, “I fully expect us to compete everyday in practice and in every play of every game. You can’t predict the wins and losses.”

Overall, Paiva said he is looking forward to having a “normal” football season even though it hasn’t started off that way and he hopes the worst is now behind them.

“I’m pushing for normal,” he said.

The Northmen/Mounties are scheduled to play two games in September, opening up at Chariho, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. and then at Johnston, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m.

After opting out of last season, the Woonsocket High School Villa Novans football team returns to action in DI this season. They open out their year on the road Friday night, Sept. 17 playing Central at Conley Stadium at 6 p.m. On Saturday, Sept. 25, they will host Cranston East at Barry Field at 1 p.m.