Amidst a massive turnout at Phelps Stadium in Exeter, with one roaring crowd in front of him and another behind, Head Coach Leon Modeste steered his team towards a 13-12 victory for Andover Football. Under his leadership, Andover’s undefeated streak was kept alive and the five-year losing streak to Exeter was broken.
“That was epic: everybody contributed. We did stuff that we hadn’t done a lot of, and the kids adjusted,” said a beaming Modeste.
Leon Modeste, affectionately known as “Coach Mo,” had turned around an 0-7 team into a Championship-winning 9-0 team in the span of two years. Modeste’s success has earned him _The Phillipian_’s Fall Coach of the Year award.
¨What everyone has to remember is that we were a team that, two years ago, lost every game. And that at one point, we were on a 13-game losing streak. It is the character of the Seniors that melded with the character of the new guys, that really created the character of the team. That was what made them such a great team,¨ said Modeste.
In addition to going 9-0, Andover Football captured the Jack Etter Bowl in comeback fashion and went undefeated for only the second time in school history.
Modeste arrived at Andover in 1986 and started coaching the football team in 1987. His experience and knowledge of the game proved crucial this season, as the team needed to integrate eight Post-Graduate students seamlessly to survive in a tough Division I League.
“I found him very understanding of the whole situation. [Post-Graduates] tend to know how most basic offenses and defenses work, and he made it very easy for us to blend into his system,” said RB/OLB Ryder Stone ’14.
“I felt like there was a stronger bond between this team than my old team,” said SS/FS Matt Ilalio ’14.
“My Sophomore year, when we were losing every game, Coach Mo was right there fighting with us. He understood the struggles we were going through. We stepped it up, and he kept pushing us,¨ said Co-Captain Tyler Marshall ’14.
Modeste was quick to deflect the praise he received, attributing part of the team’s success to the fortune that smiled upon the team in terms of injuries. “We didn’t have any guy miss any significant minutes this season. Ask any coach in the league and they will tell you, if you get injuries, it’s really bad in this league,” he said.
While Andover went undefeated, the team certainly did not cruise to a 9-0 record. Andover’s biggest defensive challenge of the year was a goal-line stand against Cushing.
With a 7-0 Andover lead, Cushing’s offense had the ball on the Andover five-yard line. “A gap opened up, and I thought [the Running Back] was going to walk in [and tie it up]. But out of nowhere comes Mikey Moore [’14], and bam. Goal line stand,” said Modeste.
With the success of its goal-line stand, Andover would go on to win the game 7-0.
Big moments like these kept Andover’s season going, and Modeste stressed how this particular team stayed in the moment, a critical factor in addition to the team’s lack of injuries. “We had some great leadership on the team. Each game we went into, we didn’t worry about what happened the week before or what would happen next week. We stayed in the moment, and it wasn’t just about winning or losing, it was sometimes about not getting beat up,” he added.
After discussing the season for about ten minutes, Modeste had said very little about his own efforts and very little about his role, instead focusing on the efforts of the team. There is no doubt that this type of selfless leadership was a model for the team. “From day one, we say, ‘It’s not about you, it’s about Blue,’” said Modeste. True to his word, Modeste was the first and foremost to embrace this philosophy.
Modeste will return to the football field next year in search of another Championship with additional duties as Andover’s Athletic Director.