In his second year at the helm of the Blue Knights football program, head coach Matt MacLean wants to keep things simple. Feeling as though he took on too much in his first season leading Sandwich, MacLean has brought on more coaches to his staff and has delegated duties accordingly.
So as the 2019 regular season inches closer by the day, MacLean is focused on the basics—controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, having all offensive players block, and block well, and implementing a small playbook.
“We want to keep it simple,” MacLean said. “Run fewer plays and run them well and focus on the front line to give us the push and drive we need.”
Building off the foundational blocks that were laid last year, the team is hoping that will help translate into more wins in 2019. Of the 43 players on the roster, roughly 10 more than last year’s roster, 11 are seniors. And while the offense will continue to operate out of a spread formation, MacLean’s central focus is on blocking—whether it be skill position players or linemen.
“I need guys who can block. Blocking is going to be huge for us,” MacLean said. “If you’re not blocking, you’re not touching the ball.”
The offensive line will be Nick Tully, Conner Coutinho, Eric Boudrow, Peter Brady and Dan Bader, among others. The team will be hoping to protect the quarterback position—whoever is under center. Right now, senior CJ Wiper, who stood out at receiver last year, is getting the majority of starting snaps. But also getting looks are junior Nick Brown, sophomore Brady Campbell and incoming freshman Tim Bengtson. They’ll also be blocking for senior running backs Tim Ladner and Dan Halloran.
Halloran, a team captain this season along with Tully, not only brings size and strength to the backfield, but also his ability to take on blitzers in pass protections. Ladner is the athletic back who can catch the ball and run off tackle into daylight.
MacLean credited Halloran and Tully for their dedication to the game and being regulars in the weight room during the offseason, while adding that more captains could be added by the time the season starts at home against St. John Paul II on Friday, September 13. In fact, the reason for his emphasis on blocking comes from the renewed dedication to weight room overall.
“I think they’re buying into the offseason program. We had a higher turnover in the offseason conditioning than last season. I credit the coaching staff who took time out of their time to devote to being there for the guys. I think we’re a little bit bigger and it’s a tribute to them working out together this year,” he said.
Despite no longer playing in the Atlantic Coast League, Sandwich will play a nearly identical schedule as part of the Cape & Islands League-Small Division this year. They’ll swap out games against Falmouth and Marshfield and avoid Barnstable for Nantucket, Monomoy and Martha’s Vineyard, which are the three other teams in the C&I Small Division.
“We’ve played Monomoy and Martha’s Vineyard in the last couple years, but it’s just Nantucket that brings a little bit of unfamiliarity for us,” he said.
They’ll continue to play against former league rivals like Dennis-Yarmouth and Nauset while also playing familiar out-of-league foes like St. John Paul II and Bishop Stang. Sandwich opens up the season with back-to-back home games against SJPII and D-Y after using the opening week as extra preparation for the regular season. But the Knights will be on the road for the next four games, including two ferry trips to both island schools on back-to-back weeks in October.
Ahead of the regular season, the Knights have already scrimmaged against Silver Lake Regional High School and took part in a four-team scrimmage with Mashpee, Cape Tech and Martha’s Vineyard. They’ll also scrimmage against MacLean’s high school alma mater, Abington, on September 5 at 6 PM at DeConto Stadium.