Everything was much different for Nauset just a few years ago.
From 2006 to 2009 the football team had a combined record of 5-36, a stretch in which it only won a single league game. With those results, the Eastham school decided to take two years off from the Atlantic Coast League and play an independent schedule beginning in 2010.
That same year a determined Keith Kenyon, who previously coached in North Kingston (R.I.), took over as head coach of the Warriors.
In his first year, Nauset finished 6-5. After that season, Kenyon felt his program had improved enough to skip the second year of independent play and re-enter the ACL. Last fall Nauset went 4-2 in the league, 7-4 overall.
And now, just three years into the job, Kenyon’s team is 8-0, one of the 13 undefeated MIAA schools in Eastern Massachusetts.
“The most important thing is teaching the kids value and hard work,” Kenyon said. “They had to make football important in their lives and give it more time than they were giving it.”
One of the most pivotal changes was moving from a spread offense to a single wing, using tailbacks to throw the ball instead of a set quarterback. Nauset, the only high school on the East Coast located within a national park (Cape Cod National Seashore), has taken pride in its unique offense, and with good reason.
Junior Jimmy Sullivan leads the attack, rushing for more than 100 yards in six games this season. Colby Frodel, who missed the first game of the season because of a sprained ankle, has been the other powerhouse in the single wing. In a 49-14 win over Falmouth, Frodel threw a 43-yard touchdown pass, scored on a 78-yard run, and had a 39-yard interception return for a TD.
The goal for the Warriors was to not be so one-dimensional and they’ve accomplished that.
“Running is a primary point of this offense,” said Kenyon. “The pass game is there when we want to do other things, it helps us spread the field more than we have in the past. The ability of Jimmy and Colby to throw the ball makes it easier.”
Nauset’s success hasn’t just come from its offense. The defense has been dominant as well, allowing just 11.6 points per game. The highest they’ve allowed in a game this season was 20 points against Scituate.
Kenyon always thought the defense would be the cornerstone of this year’s success. Six-foot-three-inch, 255-pound defensive tackle Dakota Girard (Brown University commit) and Jamie Law anchor the line with their tremendous pass rush.
As a whole, Nauset’s modest approach is what has kept them undefeated. They have 22 seniors but they do not have a captain. It’s simply a model of shared leadership with everyone contributing.
After the Warriors’ 7-6 win over Marshfield, the team decided that the motto for the rest of the year would be “Prove ourselves.”
“The kids are proud to be where they are and it’s a great accomplishment,” Kenyon said. “We’ll count up all the stats at the end of the season, all we care about right now is doing what we do. Our kids never give up.”
Their focus now is on Friday’s game at Sandwich.
With Hurricane Sandy making its way up the East Coast, this week’s approach might be different. Nauset has already canceled school for Monday and the Warriors won’t practice, but Kenyon’s players will still put in their work by lifting, running, and watching film. On Tuesday, they’ll practice at an indoor facility and take it from there.
Kenyon is 21-9 with Nauset, but he is just grateful that the kids have taken pride in playing football.
“I’m really happy that they bought into our philosophy,” Kenyon said.
The Warriors’ last three matchups are ACL games, so a loss could change everything, but they aren’t stressing it. All Nauset is worried about is being in the best position it can be when it steps on the field Friday to prove again that this is a special year.