Sports

PA Football Embraces New Power Style on Offense and Speed on D; PG’s and Seniors Fill Skill Positions and Linebackers Lead Defense

Andover Football will attempt to recreate the immensely successful season in the fall of 2005, going 8-0 and reaching the Class A New England championship. The Blue rode on hard work, unity, selflessness, and talent to reach the ultimate stage. 2006 brings high expectations once again and an equally exciting buzz to campus. Coach Leon Modeste, at the helm of the Blue for his 20th season, has led Andover to a 102-52-2 record during his time. And the target is clear: “Our goal is to get back where we were last year, and win the whole thing,” says Co-Captain Will Sherrill ’07. While a lot of offensive firepower was lost, having graduated a pair of all-league RBs, an all-league QB, and four of the top receivers on last year’s squad, the offense is still ripe with capable and talented players eager to take on their new responsibilities. Returning senior Sherrill takes over at quarterback, briefly showing his potential last year when he stepped in for an injured Joey Lokitis ’06. The running game will feature a style different from last year’s dynamic duo, emphasizing power instead of speed. Alongside returning senior Mike Tully ’07 come postgraduate bruisers Luke DeLuca ’07, Gigi Cadet ’07, and the agile Anthony Ambrosi ’07. The foursome will cycle in and out, feeding into an I-form, 3-wideout set for the majority of the plays. The formation results from this year’s attempt to create a more methodical offense than last year’s, where explosiveness was the key. Sherrill will have some athletic gamers to feed the ball to in the air, as six-foot-six tight end and split-out postgrad Austin Monahan ’07 provides a huge target downfield. “Austin’s got some awesome hands, and he’s speedy for a big guy. He’s taller than everyone else covering him,” says Sherrill. Stepping into the wide receiver roles will also be returner Mike Ciummei ’08 and postgrad Ty Palin ’07, while Co-Captain Peter Casey ’07 will share the tight end duties. The offensive line looks to plug some holes opened by graduation, but the anchor that is Co-Captain Chris Shannon ’07 leads at left (blind-side) tackle, opposite the budding Matt Skinner ’07 who steps up at right tackle. Ask any player about the defense, and sit back to hear the universal praise. The D has taken a step forward and improved in 2006, even after only allowing an average of 14 points per game in 2005. “Our defense has gotten much faster this year,” Coach Modeste reiterated, “which means we’ll be able to blitz a lot more, and have the movement to cover more ground.” The front line of the defense will establish the line of scrimmage well with its size, as Skinner and Monahan will cycle through at the ends, while Shannon and Matt Gaske ’08 will help plug the gaps at tackle. Newcomers DeLuca, Cadet, and PG Kevin Wood ’07 lead the linebacking corps with lots of experience and athleticism. “Gigi and Luke have sonar when they’re out there tracking down balls,” said Coach Modeste, while Wood led his team in tackles as captain last year. “The linebackers are a huge strength, and our depth there is great as well,” says Sherill. The secondary features some true potential, but the loss of both safeties, captain Matt Ward ’06 and Tom Tassinari ’06, will leave a tough hole for Andover to fill. Casey will step in at strong safety after leading PA in sacks in 2005, “and if anyone can replace Ward, it’s Peter,” says Coach Modeste. Chad Hollis ’08 returns at cornerback, and will continue his important role in 2006 alongside Ambrosi. “Chad’s looking better than ever, he’s a legitimate lockdown corner right now. He simply takes away the opponent’s top receiving threat,” said Modeste glowingly. Although many of the positions left open by seniors are already filled, there remain some important battles for starting roles, most importantly for the center. With the graduation of three-year starter David Giller ’06, a new snapper is needed to step in and feed Sherrill with the cleanest transfers possible. The jobs of both place-kicker and punter are also up for grabs, while Casey’s partner at free safety will be a hotly contested position. After its first scrimmage with Cushing and Deerfield on the 16th, Andover opens the season by traveling to Loomis on the 23rd. September 30th marks the home opener, as PA hosts perennially strong New Hampton at dusk. At home, the Blue will also welcome Cushing, Deerfield, and Exeter who are all sure to bring a very tough game to the table. “I have all the faith in our seniors and all the guys,” comments Coach Modeste, while Sherrill adds, “we have to keep working hard, keep our heads in each game, and I think our chances are just as great this year.”