In 1989 Kevin Costner starred in the movie “Field of Dreams,” written by W.P. Kinsella. In one of the movie’s more memorable quotes, a voice said to Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, “If you build it, he will come.” Over the years that has popularly been changed to “If you build it, they will come.”
When the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association ended the football co-op program between Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School and the Bourne High School after the 2009 season, it left new football players at Upper Cape Tech with no place to play. Those UCT players already a part of the Bourne/UCT team were allowed to finish their careers with the Canalmen.
Current superintendent Robert Dutch, at the time the school’s principal, recognized the need and had the dream. He approached the school committee with the idea for an Upper Cape Tech football program. The logistics of putting a new football team on the field were staggering. But, with the school committee’s approval in hand, he put the word out that the Rams were looking to build a football program.
Dutch, with eight years of football coaching experience, knew what he was looking for.
Several years earlier, while they may not have known one another at the time, Dutch crossed paths with a substitute teacher and assistant football coach at South Shore Vocational Technical School in Hanover, where he was the head of the science department. In 2010 they met, and Dutch hired Mike Hernon.
“(Former athletic director) Bob Joyce and I interviewed Mike,” Dutch recalled. “We had no head coach that first year; it was Mike and Ed Eldredge.”
Dutch also brought in coach Tom Cadieux, who added more experience to the new staff.
“We had a nice formula that worked out for us,” Dutch said of the new coaching staff. “The end result has been positive.”
By the summer of 2010 Dutch had found the basic ingredients for the team he envisioned.
He had hired Hernon, Eldredge and Cadieux and charged them with building the new football program at Upper Cape Tech.
“Edgar helped start the program and has continued with the program since its inception,” now head coach Mike Hernon explained. “The past two seasons he has been the freshmen head coach and has done a great job getting those guys ready to play at the next level. We had 27 freshmen come out this season and not one quit and that says a lot about how things are done at that level.
“The hiring of Tom Cadieux as our defensive coordinator has played a significant role in the attitude and toughness of the team. Having 37 years’ experience he has seen it all and has been an unbelievable asset in not only what he brings to the field as far as bringing out the best in the kids, but also my development as a head coach. Those two guys do not get enough credit and will probably never get enough credit in the public eye for what they have done and how much they mean to me and this program.”
Last year coach Jake Simpson joined the staff, which was complemented by coaches Brandan Poulin and Ben Rabinovitch this year. Added up, the Rams’ staff has 104 years of playing and coaching experience. Combined they have made 29 postseason appearances, 17 Super Bowl appearances and have collected 10 Super Bowl rings.
The Rams began playing football in the fall of 2010 as a junior varsity team.
“We didn’t have any seniors and only five juniors that first year,” Hernon said. “It was mostly sophomores and freshmen.”
Several of the veteran UCT football players elected to remain with the Bourne team and they went on to win a super bowl the next year.
“We faced a huge job,” Hernon said. “Everybody was new to the program and the kids were from different towns and didn’t know one another. Some of the kids had played some, but we had a plan. I was coming from a successful program at South Shore and had played in a successful program at Rockland. Edgar had a hand in starting Bourne Pop Warner and brought that knowledge. He was the local guy, the one who supervised the kids in the weight room and with their off-season conditioning. We met the kids about three weeks before that first season.”
With the organizational skills of Eldredge and the coaching experience of Hernon and Cadieux behind them, the Rams took the field that first Monday in September of 2010 and defeated their JV opponent from Blue Hills 16-6. UCT finished their first season at the junior varsity level with a record of 4-4, but before the season ended they took the field on the Monday before Thanksgiving at Massachusetts Maritime, where they played their first game at the varsity level, losing to Cape Cod Tech.
Rams Become a Varsity Program
The next year the Rams became a varsity program, opening the 2011 season back at MMA, losing to Pope John Paul II 46-6.
“We had the same core group of guys, “Hernon explained. “We knew it would be difficult. We were building to get better.”
The Rams opened their first varsity season with three straight losses.
“I remember after that third loss to Diman Voc, I never felt so bad on a football field,” Hernon recalled. “I told the kids after that, if they came to practice and worked hard, I guaranteed they would win. After I said that, I asked myself, ‘What did I just do?’ If we lost again, they would never believe another thing I said.”
Hernon’s risk paid off as the Rams won their next game against Harwich.
“After that, the kids started to believe,” the coach said. “It gave them some life. They started making plays. I remember in that game Jon (Dumont) had a touchdown to open the second half in which he just outran everybody. At that moment I knew he was going to be something special. Liam (Kanaley) then scored the winning touchdown.”
UCT picked up their first varsity league win when they beat Old Colony in freezing rain conditions.
“We were working off the positives,” Hernon said. “It got the kids believing that we just might have something here. Unfortunately, we didn’t end that first varsity season the way we wanted, but you could really see the progress. By the end of that first year we knew that we were going to be a competitive team the next fall.”
Throw out all the wins and I wouldn’t change a thing because of how much these kids mean to me. We talk about family a lot and how much it means, and these kids will always be part of my family.
Coach Mike Hernon
The Rams were still a very young squad that second season, which they finished with a 2-8 record.
The 2012 season turned into a magical run for the Rams as they won their first eight games.
“It was important for us to manage our expectations,” the coach said. “We talked about being competitive and we were learning how to win. Our motivation was the way we had been kicked around the year before. When we stood up to Falmouth that year in a preseason scrimmage; a Division 2 team, that gave everybody a little pep in their step.”
A loss to Holbrook/Avon, while disappointing, refocused the team.
“I said it again, good things will happen when you work hard,” Hernon said, “and they did that. We finished the regular season at 9-1.”
In just their second varsity season, the Rams found themselves headed to the Division 5 Super Bowl, played at Curry College against Dorchester. In the snow, the Rams capped off a dream season, winning 22-8.
“I think you coach your players the way you would your own kids,” Hernon said. “I coached as I would have wanted to be coached. There was a mutual respect and support.”
This year, the fourth for the program, and the fourth for the players who showed up that first day back in 2010, UCT finished the season with a record of 7-4.
“Entering this year we talked about managing expectations,” Hernon explained. “Our goal was to win the league, which we did for the second time. Unfortunately, we weren’t one of the 12 teams to play in a Super Bowl, but we have nothing to hang our heads about.”
Bob Dutch had the dream and Mike Hernon and his staff assembled the pieces, but it was the players who made it all work. Their hard work, dedication to the game and commitment to what the school was doing created the winning magic in such a short time.
“We could make a list of all the great on-the-field accomplishments these seniors have had in their four years,” coach Hernon said, “but what I am going to cherish most is the relationships that have been made. Throw out all the wins and I wouldn’t change a thing because of how much these kids mean to me. We talk about family a lot and how much it means, and these kids will always be part of my family. It has been an honor and a privilege to be able to coach them and I hope they have had as much fun playing for me as I have had coaching them. “
Fond Farewell to Departing Seniors
This year the 10 seniors, many of whom were among the first to put on the blue and white UCT jersey, and who are in large part responsible for the program’s success, will move on. In just the four short seasons the program has been in existence; they have won two league championships and a Super Bowl title. For them walking away is bittersweet.
“Playing football at Upper Cape has been the most fun I’ve had playing any sport,” multi-sport athlete Richie Semple said. “My parents talked me into playing my freshman year and it just became more fun with each passing year. I remember that first year they were looking for someone to be the backup quarterback and I was picked.”
Semple played at wide receiver in addition to being the backup for quarterback for Edgar Eldredge for three seasons. This past fall he was one of the team captains and started at QB.
I think we put our school on the map.
Isaac Cardoso was another freshman to take the chance and join the new football program. This year he was one of the team captains.
“I’ll never forget that we brought home the first championship in any sport for the school,” he recalled. “That banner will always be up there. I think we put our school on the map.”
Senior captain Ryan Kiely had never played football before joining the Rams.
“I really grew with the team,” Kiely said. “That freshman year was my first playing football. I think as a team we were all growing together. Just seeing how much better we were getting and how close we had become, really created a special bond.”
Another team captain this season was senior Liam Kanaley, who also joined the fledgling program back in the late summer of 2010.
“It’s pretty amazing to look back at what we accomplished,” Kanaley said with a smile. “To have done what we did that second varsity season really put us on the map. It was an honor to have played with these guys and this team.”
Senior Derek Riebesehl can also claim to have been there from the start.
“From where we started, to where we are now as a program, is a huge accomplishment,” Riebesehl said. “To win a super bowl title is pretty impressive for a new program. These last four years just disappeared. I didn’t want it to end. I’ll definitely miss it and I’m going to miss the guys.”
Senior Ryan Fuller, now a football veteran, had never played the game before when he stepped onto the practice field in the fall of 2010. “I had never played football before in my life,” he explained. “That freshman year no one knew anyone else. We were in a new school, with new kids. But football brought us together and we all became friends.”
Senior Alex Peterson actually played soccer for the Rams, before turning to the gridiron. In his senior season he joined the team and became a solid and reliable place kicker; a weapon not every school has. “There have been some crazy moments,” Peterson grinned. “Of all the sports I’ve played football has been the most fun. I’m happy that I could play a role and become a part of this team. There have been moments that I think I’ll always remember.”
Playing no small role throughout the four-year run was two-time Mayflower MVP, senior captain Jon Dumont.
“These past four years have meant a lot to me,” Dumont said. “It is the most fun that I’ve ever had playing football. We didn’t know one another coming into this. Now we’ve become so close, that we pretty much call each other brother. I know I’ll always remember what we accomplished and these guys like it was yesterday.”
Senior Tyler Mahoney was another guy who four years ago thought he’d give the new UCT football program a try.
“It has been a lot of fun,” Mahoney said. “It’s just amazing what we were able to accomplish in three varsity seasons; two conference championships and a Super Bowl. I think we’re all going to be friends for the rest of our lives. Whenever I look at this school, I’ll remember that I played football here and that together we accomplished so much.”
The football program was so new back in 2010 that senior Dan Doherty didn’t know it existed. His sophomore year he was quick to join the team.
“That freshman year I didn’t know we had a team,” he smiled. “I joined my sophomore year. We worked hard and the year after that it all clicked. We had a great group of players and coaches. It was all so amazing. But then I got hurt in my senior year, I blew out my knee in the second scrimmage. People were telling me I should just quit, that I was done. But I wasn’t going to walk away from these guys. If I couldn’t be with them on the field, I was going to be with them on the sideline. We are a family.”
While some high school football programs are struggling to fill their rosters, Upper Cape Tech’s success has created an abundance of players with the school fielding teams at the varsity, junior varsity and freshman levels. Beginning with a dream in 2009, to a struggling young JV program in 2010, to a football super bowl champion by 2012, the Rams have come a long way.
“The future is strong,” coach Hernon added. “We’ll continue to build off what we have accomplished. There are kids coming to UCT today looking to play football because of what these kids, now seniors, have accomplished. For an 18-year-old kid, it might be hard for it to sink in, but whether they know it or not, they have helped shape the lives of others. There are kids that want to come to UCT to play football because of what they have done these last four years.”