Two-a-days: Winless to contender? Naples hopes so
September 8, 2016
Fifteenth in a series of glimpses at high school football camps around Europe.
Things fell apart completely for the Naples Wildcats last fall. Or did they?
What’s indisputable is that the Wildcats went winless in 2015.
Looking strictly at the standings, the 0-5 season completed the program’s plummet from the 2012 European Division II championship game to the divisional cellar.
But closer examination reveals a more charitable view of the Wildcats. Naples was competitive throughout the season, losing 21-7 to eventual European runner-up Rota in its season opener and losing to Italian rivals Vicenza and Aviano by a combined total of 15 points. No team scored more than 23 points against the Wildcats.
All things considered, Naples shouldn’t be cropped out of the Division II playoff picture just yet.
It’s in that spirit that the Wildcats prepare for the 2016 season.
Head coach Jim Davis and a small squadron of eight assistant coaches will have a relatively robust roster of 36 players to work with, among them proven performers such as KC Evans, Terrell Staten, Frank Mastroianni and Jake Salvitti.
While the Wildcats might not be ready to return to the Division II elite, a season more like 2013 or 2014 could be in store.
Naples went a combined 5-5 over those two seasons, qualifying for the Division II postseason in both.
Even if last year’s winless 2015 mark was a statistical outlier, it would take a stunning reversal of fortunes for Naples to get off to a strong start this fall. The Wildcats’ first two games are against European runner-up Rota and two-time defending European champion Ansbach.
That leaves two potential paths forward for the Wildcats: leap back into the Division II elite by taking down one or two of its top teams, or absorb that early storm and look to claw back into the postseason on the schedule’s back half.