Sandwich Football Kicks Off New Season
By: Dan Crowley
There is a new attitude and it’s about winning. This season the Sandwich High School Blue Knight football team plans to go head-to-head with their powerful Atlantic Coast League opponents and win more than they lose.
Last year Sandwich finished the season at 2-8, having lost two games by two points or less and another by seven points. Those types of games they plan to turn into wins in 2012.
But not only is the ACL one tough customer in football, the Blue Knights will play a nonleague schedule that will have them facing defending Super Bowl championship teams.
“Dennis-Yarmouth, who is in the ACL, won the Division 2A Super Bowl,” Coach Bill Luette, who is entering his eighth season, explained. “Not only do we face them, but we open against Division 3A Super Bowl winner Bourne and on Thanksgiving we play Division 4 Super Bowl champion Mashpee. We also play Barnstable and they made it to the playoffs, and Diman Voc would have made it to the playoffs if they had not lost on Thanksgiving. We’re not going to have anything easy. There are some great teams on the Cape and Islands again this year.”
This fall the Knights will be led by senior captains Nick Tierney and David Whittle.
One of the first things Luette and his staff had to do was fill the gaps left with the graduation of 10 seniors. The most difficult player to replace was the versatile co-captain from last season, Tony Tully.
“They were a close bunch,” Luette said of last year’s team. “Those guys were a huge loss. They were hard workers and taught the younger kids our team concept.”
In addition to Tully and co-captain fullback Kyle Hein, the team lost three wide receivers and four top linemen as well as their kicker.
“The kids this year have all been working hard,” the coach said, “and we picked up some people that didn’t play last year, like seniors Ryan Lewis, Tyler Moffa and junior Johnny Stanton.”
The loss of veterans Phil Boudrow, Andy Howells, Jalin McDonald and Ty McGrath in the trenches could hurt, but the Knights have Tierney, Lewis, Julian Molina, Christian O’Brien, Spencer Cleary and Matt Ladner to do the job.
“We’re a bit inexperienced on the offensive line,” the coach admitted, “but it’s a good line. The kids are doing a good job.”
At kicker, Chris Crowley went down early in the year with a broken shoulder and returned halfway through the season. Collin Russell stepped in and handled the kicking responsibilities, but this year Russell is attending Pope John Paul II. This fall the Knights will turn the kicking over to Pat Kane who has looked good in the preseason.
One of the major pieces on the board is the quarterback position and the Knights are fortunate to have senior Zach Wagner back calling the signals. Wagner is a veteran at the QB spot, with a good arm, and is not afraid to tuck the ball and run.
“Zach is experienced,” Coach Luette said. “He understands the game and has good core skills. He knows his responsibility.”
Luette and his staff have yet to determine the starting backfield. However, it will probably consist of a combination of Stephen Cook, Sean Reardon, Matt Mullin and Kenny Grady.
“Every senior will be an impact player for us this year,” Luette said. “They have to be. Almost all our seniors will be starting or be a backup to spell somebody.”
At wide receiver the Knights have several options that include a number of players who saw significant time on the field last year. For targets this fall, Wagner will have Whittle, Tim Sullivan, Jake Ganley, Cook, Kane, Brian Millham, Joe Millham and Stanton. When Sandwich lines up in their jumbo set, Ganley will move to tight end.
Defensively, Tierney, Molina or Ladner will be up front with Ganley and either Dan Perry or Liam Mahoney on the end. Perry is also the backup quarterback.
At the linebacker position, Sandwich will be going with Mark Peterson, O’Brien and Moffa. Whittle will start at free safety with Joe Millham the strong safety. Brian Millham and either Sullivan or Cook look to get the nod at cornerback.
“We’re pretty quick defensively,” Coach Luette said. “We’re good at filling and can apply great force on the outside. The guys know their responsibilities and they’re doing their jobs.”
Once again this season, the Knights will be digging into the playbook.
“I think we’ll be an exciting team,” Coach Luette said. “We have the ability to make some big plays and our defense is better than last year. I think this year we’re the type of team that will win those close games.”
In the past, injuries have plagued the Blue Knights. In 2010 the sidelines at game time were often lined with injured players. Last year the injuries began in preseason and continued throughout the year. This season there have already been preseason injuries.
“Injuries happen in football at every level,” Coach Luette explained. “The kids have been. working hard in the weight room to get ready. They’re competitive; they want to win and they go hard. Our injuries haven’t just happened on the field but outside of football as well.”
The preseason began slowly for the Knights but by Saturday’s scrimmage with Old Rochester, the team was finding its rhythm.
“We’ve had our preseason ups and downs,” the coach noted. “We did well against Scituate and Hull, but those scrimmages were scripted. We wanted to run certain plays and see what the kids could do. Our Mashpee scrimmage was disappointing but Old Rochester was very positive. Things are coming together.”
The Blue Knights will open the season tonight at 7 PM at the Pop Warner Field on Quaker Meetinghouse Road when they host defending Division 3A Super Bowl champion Bourne, who have a 15-game winning streak that stretches back to November of 2010. The Canalmen, just like the Knights, lost a lot to graduation. Gone this season is starting quarterback Jason Moriarty but in his place is equally as good, if not possibly better, senior QB Zach Songer. All-Star running back Joe Epps is gone as is the anchor to both the offensive and defensive lines in co-captain Jack Schmitt. Tight end and linebacker Drew Girouard is playing at Mass Maritime this fall along with Schmitt and sure-handed receiver Jake Achstetter is also gone. But the Canalmen have a pair of running backs in juniors Marquis Rhodes and Chad Marsh who just may be two of the best in the South Coast Conference.
Bourne is riding the momentum of their Super Bowl victory and Coach John McIntyre has also been known to dig into the playbook for a little something special at just the right time.
“Every time we play Bourne, it is an exciting game,” Coach Luette said. Last year the Knights lost to the Canalmen in the final seconds by a score of 28-27.
“You just never know what will happen. It’s a nonleague game that will certainly help prepare us for our league schedule, but believe me, we want to win. We’re not last year’s teams. We’re doing some different stuff. Our personnel is different. We want to put our kids in a position where we can play to their strengths and win,” he said.
Defeating the defending Super Bowl champion would be just what the doctor ordered for the Knights to open the season.
“To open with a win over Bourne would give our kids a lot of confidence,” the coach said. “We had them last year. That’s the kind of loss we have to turn around into a win this year.”
There is plenty of excitement in the locker room and on the practice field as opening day approaches.
“I think the kids were ready right after Thanksgiving last year,” Luette smiled. “I saw it at our end of the year banquet. We’ve got a great group of kids and they’re a lot of fun. I really enjoy coaching them. They’re working hard and are doing a great job. I’m very happy with the way they’ve come together as a team. We have a great school for learning and a great school for athletics. The kids believe in us and the program, and they’re going to have a great experience and learn about life and football. They want to get out there and have a good showing. The coaching staff is very excited too. It’s been a long off-season.”
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