If they didn’t know already, the players and coaches on the Warwick Vets football team found out exactly what junior linebacker David MacDonald meant to the team in a pair of September games.
Both MacDonald and fellow linebacker Dennis Scalzo missed the Woonsocket and Coventry games with injury, and the ’Canes lost those two games by a combined score of 75-14. It was no coincidence – the ’Canes missed their talent, but they also missed MacDonald’s intensity. He paced the sidelines in the Woonsocket game, trying to fire his team up. But it wasn’t the same.
“You could see it,” said coach Bryan Nappa. “It was evident. We had a couple of young guys getting their first opportunity to play, and the team was really missing David’s energy out there.”
Thankfully for the ’Canes, they didn’t have to miss it for much longer. MacDonald returned to the lineup for the Chariho game and helped lead the ’Canes to a 22-13 victory, the beginning of a surge that kept Vets in the playoff picture until the final week of the season. The run included an upset win over Westerly, one that was sparked by a tremendous defensive effort.
MacDonald was in the middle of it, just as he was all year.
“What he brought to the table this year changed the tone of our defense, to more of a hard-nosed group,” Nappa said. “He brought toughness that we’ve kind of been lacking the last couple of years.”
MacDonald grew up in Cranston and started playing football with CLCF when he was just 6 years old. He moved to Warwick his freshman year and quickly found a home on the football field.
The intensity was there from the beginning.
“I don’t know where it comes from, but I just love the game,” MacDonald said. “I’ve been playing since I was young and I feel like I’ve got to lead the team.”
MacDonald earned a starting job as a sophomore, playing next to standout linebacker Nick Salois. With Salois lost to graduation, MacDonald took center stage this year and helped the Vets defense forge a new identity.
“Nick Salois was kind of the anchor of our defense last year and David had a good year as a sophomore, learning next to him,” Nappa said. “He fed off that and he learned a lot from what Nick brought to the table. They have different styles. Nick uses his knowledge of the game, plays off his intuition. David is pure drive.”
At 5-foot-7, 196 pounds, MacDonald fit perfectly into an inside linebacker spot. He also saw a lot of time at fullback and helped open holes for star running back T.J. Boyajian.
Wherever MacDonald was, his drive shined through, mirroring the efforts of his team. The ’Canes finished 3-4 in league play this year, more league wins than they had in the previous three years combined.
“It’s been a big change this year,” MacDonald said. “Everybody wants it, everybody’s so hungry for it this year. We gave it our all, and it’s been a great season.”
The ’Canes will try to continue it on Thanksgiving. Last year, they sprung an upset of Pilgrim. This year, they’ll be a favorite, but they know the Pats will be coming hard.
Vets has a formula for success, honed in the big wins over Chariho and Westerly. It’s just about executing it.
Having MacDonald healthy and ready to go in the middle won’t hurt either.
“We’ve just got to do our job, don’t make any dumb mistakes,” MacDonald said. “We need to play the game the way we’ve been playing it all year. If we do that, we’ll win.”