Andover Football’s quarterback, Davian McDonald ’25, caught the Brooks defensive line off-guard by passing short to the man in motion, ending the day with a 60-yard touchdown play. With a variety of drills and scrimmages against Brooks, the team not only further developed its offensive and defensive strategies, but further cultivated its sense of unity.
Prior to the first official game, many teams in the New England Preparatory Athletic Council (NEPSAC) league hold a joint practice where two teams come together to compete in technical drills and small-sided scrimmages. According to Co-Captain Andrew DeBenedictis ’23, the joint practice mostly focused on one-on-one matchups, but also included a short, full contact scrimmage.
“For the first hour, it was one-on-one. Receivers were with the defensive backs, and vice versa, linemen were with the linemen, and the linebackers with the running backs. It was more just kind of guarding each other…. Then after that, it was seven-on-seven. The linemen and the big guys got a break, and it was just skill guys on skill guys, so receivers and running backs on linebackers and defensive backs, and we did that for about 20 minutes or so. Then we went to 11-on-11, so full team, full contact, like a normal game,” said DeBenedictis.
With only four days of official preseason this year, the team faced challenges with fitting in enough practices prior to its first official game. Despite the tight schedule, the numerous two-a-day practices, team dinners, film reviews, and locker room talks have allowed the team to spend quality time together, according to Javeon Talbot PG’23.
“Coming in, we [didn’t] have the most numbers…Our preseason [was] cutting it a lot closer to the actual season, [so in] preseason, you’re pushing. We’d have practice three times a day, two times a day, two hours each, and so that’s when the injuries and stuff come. But at the same time, spending all that time together brings you that much closer, so I’d say it was all worth it, even with the injuries. And no one is extreme. No one is out for the season or anything like that for week one, so we’re looking good, and our chemistry is there,” said Talbot.
According to Justin Hardy ’23, the few players out for minor injury are mostly for precaution leading up to the season opener. He noted an important change to the team this season: its coaching staff and philosophy.
“We have a new offensive coordinator and new defensive coordinator. Our coaches last year were great, but this year, we have two new coaches coming in, which means we have a new offense and a new defense. We have a new starting quarterback. [McDonald] is a lower, so he’s going to be our starting quarterback this year. The quarterback and the receivers and the entire team in general just seem to have great chemistry. We’re working well with the coaches. The coaches are putting forward great offense, great defense. The team really seems to be like a team unit this year, and we’re playing all together,” said Hardy.
In addition to adapting well to the new coaches, Hardy believes the team has adapted well to each other. All players, new or returning, have been working to create “a band of brothers.”
“Our coaches always talk about being good people on and off the field. That’s one thing that our coach, especially our head coach, constantly preaches. Everyone has adjusted flawlessly. Everyone treats each other with respect on and off the field. It’s like a band of brothers is what some of the coaches have been saying…. Everyone’s working together really well. There have been no disputes or anything like that,” said Hardy.
After scoring a few touchdowns during the full-sided scrimmage, the team is optimistic about its offense, something they struggled with last season. However, Talbot emphasized that the team realizes there is still much room for improvement.
“We were satisfied, but not content. We know we did [well], but we also know we had a lot farther to go. The next day coming to practice, everyone had that same ambition even though we were tired…But [it’s] just us all having the same mindset towards the end, [and] knowing that we got a lot to accomplish,” said Talbot.
Hardy believes the joint practice serves as momentum going into the season opener. He noted that the team will have most, if not all, of its players ready this coming Saturday, eager to show what they’ve been working on these past two weeks.
“Last year, obviously, we had some trouble, but we’re confident going into our first game. Hopefully we can win that first game in front of our home crowd, build up a lot of momentum, and carry that into further weeks,” said Hardy
Andover will open its season against Kent at home this Saturday.