YONKERS - The most oblivious team in Section 1 prepared this week for what they're told is a momentous football
Don't call it ignorance. Just like when Roosevelt prepared for, and handily beat, Harrison two weeks ago, the Indians don't devalue tradition or hype.
They just don't care.
"We're not worried about the name. Rye is just another team to us," Roosevelt quarterback Donovan Walker said. "We're a team. They're a team. It's just
The approach has served Roosevelt well through the first four weeks of the season. In the chaotic and ever-changing world of Section 1 Class A football, it's Roosevelt - a team most dismissed as not being serious contenders before the year - that has steadily risen from the pack.
With four convincing wins, the Indians enter Week 5 as arguably the most dangerous, and feared, team in the conference.
Roosevelt can close in on a playoff berth with a win. A school that won the 1996 Class AA state title, it would also inch closer to its first winning season this decade.
"The whole atmosphere in the school has changed the last two weeks," Roosevelt coach Mike Meade said. "I've been getting phone calls from people that I haven't heard from in a long time. It's exciting."
It's not about talent or speed or brute strength, although those things have been in abundance for Roosevelt this season. What has distinguished the Indians among the top teams in Class A, quite simply, is confidence.
The Roosevelt players are quick to point out they were a Class AA school before this season. They respect the elite teams in A. But they're not facing teams like New Rochelle, White Plains and Mount Vernon on a weekly basis.
Experience has made up for a lack of depth. The Indians had only 22 active players at Tuesday's practice. Against Rye, eight of those will start on both sides of the ball and on special
It helps when two of those two-way starters are Walker and Dave Thomas, a pair of third-year starters.
Walker, a chiseled 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior, has thrown for 378 yards and six
"Having him and Dave is like heaven," Meade said. "I don't know how I'll ever replace them. In my entire career, I've probably coached two other kids like them."
Thomas is on track for his second 1,000-yard rushing season. After gaining 1,099 last year, he's gained 582 yards on 63 carries (9.2 average) this season with nine touchdowns.
Add in the emergence of junior wideouts A.J. Pritchett and Alton Ritter, receiver/kicker Klaudio Selimaj, and productive linemen Tyrone Jones, Steve Harris and Korab Muriqi, and the Indians' success doesn't hinge on just two players.
The biggest difference, though, from last year's 4-5 team to now is chemistry. Once a team disrupted by egos and locker-room dissension, the Indians insist the jealousy is gone.
Thomas has pioneered that change.
"Dave is now a man," Meade said. "His leadership and the respect he gets from his teammates, it's so important to the chemistry of the team. They all want to block for him now. They don't care who scores. Either does he. He's changed a lot. He's grown up."
To make the playoffs, Roosevelt will likely have to beat Rye and Eastchester in the next two weeks. A split would force the Indians to await a tiebreaker. A sweep and they're in as the No. 1 seed.
While it was possible before the season Roosevelt could be in this position, few believed they'd ever go unbeaten through the year.
"We still feel like we have a lot to prove," Thomas said. "It's all right. I prefer to be the underdog. Being the type of team that we are, being the underdog is the best scenario for us."
"We're not going to get too ahead of ourselves. That's how you lose," Walker said. "We're not going to think we're automatically going to beat this team or that team. We know what we can do. We just have to go out and do it."