NORTH KINGSTOWN — Monty Valles was the picture of a nervous wreck as he watched from the stands on Sunday afternoon.
The Pawtucket-based OakWood Raiders were competing against the North Kingstown Jaguars in a game that would determine a first-round bye in the upcoming R.I. Preteen Varsity Football playoffs. There was a time not too long ago when the Raiders were staring at the possibility of Sunday’s contest representing the final hurrah of what to date has been a special season, but that appears to be water under the proverbial bridge.
In a span of a few days last week, OakWood went from being suspended and missing out entirely on the playoffs to taking the field for the regular-season finale where significant stakes were on the line. It’s been a whirlwind of intense dealings, but the bottom line is that the Raiders will be a postseason participant.
The Raiders applied the finishing touch to a playoff bye with a 28-12 win over the Jaguars, the contest taking place at North Kingstown High School. There is another game on OakWood’s schedule, something that was far from a guarantee only a short time ago.
Two weeks ago, the Raiders went on a scouting mission to watch North Providence host Chariho. The fallout from the game appeared to be serious as OakWood was accused of videotaping the contest. Per the bylaws of R.I. Preteen Football, no filming of games can take place of any kind. Failure to comply with this rule will result in a forfeiture of competing in the playoffs.
An emergency meeting of the R.I. Preteen Football board took place last Tuesday with a 6-1 vote cast to ban OakWood from the postseason. Valles, OakWood’s head coach, asked during the hearing process if any evidence of actual videotaping was presented. OakWood was originally scheduled to play North Providence last week but no game ever took place. OakWood was awarded a win via forfeit.
“Everyone is entitled to due process, but I know (the videotaping) did not happen because I was there. I know there’s no footage,” said Valles. “One of the board members claimed to have seen footage. I said awesome and asked if we could see it. They tried to the change the subject.
“For you to go out of your way to say something that isn’t true … you don’t know the identities of the people who made the complaint. They may not even exist for all we know,” Valles added. “It really is an interesting situation.”
Once the 6-1 ruling came down, Valles and his coaching staff were forced to have a tough conversation with the OakWood players.
Originally, Sunday’s contest against North Kingstown would have been the Raiders’ answer to a championship game, since postseason play wasn’t looming.
Since the original suspension, Valles has been able to have a more uplifting discussion with his guys. Just like that, the significance of Sunday’s contest had been raised. Like the Raiders, the Jaguars came in with just one loss and with designs of earning a bye.
“Originally, the message to the kids was to let us as adults take care of this. Focus on football,” said Valles. “It was a good time to talk about social media and protecting yourselves and your brand. Now, you have a target on your backs. If there’s ever time to be standup gentlemen, it’s now. These kids make our job easier based on how they adapt. We fought for our right to be in the playoffs and we got it.”
Valles watched Sunday’s action with the OakWood parents. From what the coach understands, the ultimatum from the R.I. Preteen folks was that either the players who were at North Providence a few weeks back be suspended, or the coaches are suspended for the season’s duration.
“We got what we wanted, which is to be in the playoffs,” said Valles, who is still looking to completely clear OakWood’s name.
“It was really wrong. In any court, hearsay is never going to hold up,” said Valles.
As he continued to talk, the OakWood players came over to Valles to shake his hand and receive congratulations.
“Everyone stepped up, but regardless whether we’re on the sidelines or not, I have all the confidence in them to carry this all the way to the end,” said Valles.
OakWood could end up as the top seed, depending on how the coin flip with fellow one-loss team Chariho fares. OakWood and Chariho split their two regular season meetings.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
On Tuesday night, the R.I. Preteen Football & Cheerleading organization released the following statement:
On behalf of the Preteen Football and Cheerleading organization, we would like to state that we fully support the Oakwood football organization leadership and stand with them during this tough time.
On Monday, October 28th, we as the executive board worked with Oakwood’s leadership and called a meeting of all the presidents of the league and worked out the issues that have transpired over the past weeks. The Oakwood Raiders leadership understood that the Preteen leadership was faced with the difficult decision, the written bylaw has no option other than a team suspension.
We as the Preteen executive board called a special meeting of the presidents of the league to weigh in and make a decision, this comes with the understanding that the rules that are in place are voted on by the Presidents and can only be amended by the league presidents.
During the emergency meeting, the league presidents along with the Preteen executive board came to an agreement that based on the evidence provided there was no wrong doing on behalf of the kids and focused the infraction on the coaches. There was a unanimous vote by the leagues presidents to reinstate the Oakwood Raiders Varsity Players for Playoffs and suspend the coaches for the infraction.
The Preteen Organization has no further comment on this issue and are moving forward to continue to create a positive and fun environment for the youth of the organization.