CARVER – Getting Carver, better-known as the small town next to Plymouth, on the map is a tall task, but that doesn’t stop the Bog City Bandits from trying.
The Bandits, Carver’s youth flag football program, travel beyond the state’s borders to find new heights of competition. 14U coach Patrick Kenneally brought his team and two others to Epping, New Hampshire last weekend to square off against teams from New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, even Mexico and elsewhere. There are approximately 192 teams among all of the age groups and the 14U Bandits lost in the Division 1 finals. 12U also finished as runner-ups. Bog City, though little in size, did not lack heart.
“To be able to have kids just from Carver on these teams competing at the level they’re competing at, it’s fun to watch,” Kenneally said, “We have a nice little group here. It’s funny – most of them play basketball together, most of them live in the same neighborhood, as well. They’re always playing backyard football and stuff, then we get in these tournaments and they have a good bond.”
“Bog City,” stemming from Carver’s crowds at high school athletic events, as well as the town’s cranberry harvests, was a brand everyone rallied around. Unique, tight-knit, yet kind of vague for those not from the area. Sums up Carver, doesn’t it? And fittingly, that’s just how the Bandits like it.
“The interesting confusion of ‘Where’s Bog City?’ is fun,” Kenneally laughed. “And then when you tell them we’re one small town and these are the best kids of that age group, I think that adds to the fun of it. Being that underdog, the small town of Carver, going up there doing (our) thing.”
Kenneally, a 1994 Carver High graduate, also jokes about potentially putting the number 11,000 on the back of the Bandits’ jerseys, in honor of the town’s population and beating the odds.
“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s a tournament, but it’s not stressful. It’s fun, they do well. The whole experience for them is great, between the hotel to the restaurant to the tournament, it really is a good time.”
With games only lasting a little over 20 minutes, the contests move quickly. A team can play as many as eight or nine in a single day. Traveling across states can get a little difficult for young athletes and their families balancing multiple sports and commitments, but as flag football continues to grow, the hope is that more and more tournaments will begin to pop up throughout the region in the next few years.
“This is a sport we try to work in with the other sports. Everyone is doing multiple sports at once: baseball, football, basketball, but we try to sneak in these tournaments and they’re always ready.”
Kenneally added of the program, “It’s interesting too, we’re looking at other tournaments and we’re really looking to get other head coaches to take on new age groups.”
He said it started “maybe eight years ago, as just a couple teams in town and we’ve been able to grow it to have the travel component. I do think, long term, these tournaments are here to stay and they’re just going to continue to grow.”
The 11U team: Braeden Correa, Caden Dern, Colby Medico, Jared Hayes, Nate Murphy, Skyla Deptula, Tyler Johnson.
The 12U team: Colin Eakins, Grace Kenneally, Henry Colon, Jacoby Hayes, Jake Hyland, Justin Boudreau, Kyle Carey, Matthew Lennox, Nate Murphy.
The 14U team: Ben Durant, Chase LaFountain, Chris Hoelschen, Darrian King, Derek Lopes, Jack Balzarini, Nolan Kenneally, Paige Medico, Ty Lennox, William Ruffini.