Fall Sports Football Sports

Linebacking Corps Proving To Be Linchpin of Andover Defense

Averaging more than 10.6 tackles per game, Co-Captain John Simourian ’16 is on pace to double his average of 5.3 from the previous season. Simourian is also on track to surpass Max Anthony’s ’15 team-leading total of 82 tackles from last season. Andover’s linebackers, comprised of Adam Cohen ’18, Jack Legler ’17 and Simourian, have been effective against the run this season.

Andover Football has had a strong start to the season thus far, boasting a record of 2-1. In sharp contrast to last year’s 0-3 start, Andover defeated Loomis Chaffee and Kent while losing to the defending champion, Choate, last week. Leading the team on defense is its linebacking corps, consisting of Simourian and new recruits Legler and Cohen.

With Legler and Cohen new to the team, Andover’s linebackers have had little time to adjust. Despite having issues with communication in the first game, the team has learned to work more cohesively as the year has progressed.

Legler said, “We kind of struggled in the first game. We were going into the gaps too hard with our heads down. But in the past two games we’ve been hitting the gaps hard, filling the holes, reading the other team’s offensive line properly.”

Much of the group’s success can be attributed to Simourian, a veteran of the team who serves as the leader among this year’s new linebackers.

Legler said, “Simourian has been a mentor to all the players on the team, but particularly to the linebackers. We have a very young linebacker corps and having Simourian there with us is very supportive. He always gives us encouragement and advice on how to improve.”

“[The returning players] have really helped me a lot because I always ask them questions if I don’t know what I’m doing. Especially in games, if there’s a play, I just want to make sure where I’m supposed to go and they always tell me, so they really help me a lot,” added Cohen.

Simourian currently leads the team with 32 tackles and two sacks in three games.

“[I] do my best to set a good example and have [the linebackers] follow what I do,” Simourian said. “[We have] responded well to our coaching and worked hard.”

Last week’s matchup against an undefeated Choate team proved to be Andover’s toughest of the season thus far, but the linebackers can take many positives from the loss. In particular, Cohen stepped up and contributed a team-leading 15 tackles, while Simourian and Legler tallied ten and two tackles, respectively.

Cohen credits his performance last weekend to strong fundamentals and his growing comfort as a new member of Andover’s defense.

“I think it was really just doing the basics of my job as a linebacker. I was able to read the play and see where the ball was and make the tackle. I felt that I was just more confident during this game than the first two games because I was still adapting,” he said.

Andover’s strong defense this season has been the result of dominant air with tight man coverage, which forces the opposing offense to make bad throws or put the ball in the hands of its running backs.

“I think we’ve controlled the passing game. We haven’t really let up many big pass plays and I feel like we’ve always had good coverage and haven’t let up bad plays,” Cohen explained.

The linebackers have also greatly improved their tackling since the start of the season.

Legler added, “In the first game, we were struggling to finish our tackles, but we’ve really tightened up and we’re getting lower in our tackles, especially Cohen. He’s been a good key to success with this linebacker corps so far, especially being a Lower.”

Andover Football travels to Cushing this Saturday before facing its next big challenge against an undefeated Suffield team, to whom it lost 34-0 last season.