DHS football alive and wellTuesday, September 30, 2008 By Wesley Lima
The 2008 DHS Indians football team begins this fall coming off an impressive season not likely to be forgotten for decades to come. Dartmouth advanced all the way to the Division 1 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium against the storied ‘Crimson Tide’ of Everett, one of the most renowned programs in all of New England. After the fourth quarter ended that night in the Razor, everything seemingly went downhill for the Indians. Not only did they lose the game in a vicious, overtime shootout, but with the close of the season the Indians lost the sensational UConn-bound running back Jordan Todman, as well as several other key leaders, such as captains Ryan Andrew and Owen Higham. Losing Todman, many predicted, would be the downfall of an impressive three year run at greatness for the Indians. Not so, says Dartmouth’s players and coaching staff. Say hello to one of the most talented senior classes in the storied history of Dartmouth football. “Obviously we’re different, we lost Jordan Todman,” said head coach Richard White of this year’s team. “We need three or four guys to step up, to fill the void left by JT.” The Indians return a slew of leaders from last year’s Super Bowl runner-up squad to fill that particularly immense void, including captains Arthur Lynch-Fontaine, Sean Sylvia, Justin Mello, Justin Cruz, and Chris Toole. They also return a handful of successful second-year players, as well as a strong group of junior varsity players that are more than ready to make the transition to the next level of play on Friday nights this fall. Longtime freshman football coach Tom Cadieux, who knows Dartmouth football more than almost anyone, says it’s the leadership of all the seniors, not just those listed above, that will guide the Indians to success in 2008. “I don’t think leadership is really a question,” says senior captain Chris Toole. He emphasizes the fact that the team has five outstanding captains as well as countless other seniors to assume the leadership role on the team. He says the team will be “just fine,” with their senior-laden defense and the ability to successfully transition on offense after losing several key players. “They have the experience,” says Mr. Cadieux of this year’s talented class. “Having been there, they know what success is, and they know what adversity is.” He points to the fact that this year’s seniors been on the team for four years now, and have gone through the adversity of double sessions, injuries, and devastating losses such as the very Super Bowl that is still imbedded in the minds of every player on the team. “It’s easy to be a leader when things are going well,” says Mr. Cadieux. Defensive coordinator Michael Martin indicates that there is a “sense of urgency” with the seniors this year, many of them having been significant contributors in the past two or even three years. “This is their team,” says Mr. Martin. “They’ve played in big games before.” Mr. Martin points to this season’s opening game against Mansfield as solid proof that starting 11 seniors on defense is, indeed, a noteworthy advantage. Having become comfortable in the same defense for the last four years and with each individual at the peak of their physical and mental maturity in their high school careers, Martin believes they had a slight advantage over the Mansfield Hornets. “Our guys weren’t tired come the fourth quarter,” says Mr. Martin. He believes that the epic 9-7 victory on a dismal Friday night at Mansfield was a testimony to how hard this class has worked, not just during this past summer and off-season, but throughout the previous four years of their football careers at DHS. Watching them play that opening game, however, it was clear that this was not last year’s team. And that’s certainly not a bad thing. “They have their own character, their own identity, and their own leaders,” says Mr. Cadieux. “They have a mission.” The coach points to their no-nonsense, very business-like approach to this year’s season as a key component to their success, and says it is clearly a direct result of the leadership of the captains and seniors. The Indians return the majority of their offensive starters, led by duel-threat quarterback Sylvia, Georgia-bound tight end Fontaine, and crowd-dazzling wide receiver Mello, as well as an intimidating offensive line including captains Cruz and Toole. Sylvia, the Indians captain and signal-caller, has a nagging hamstring injury that will cause him to miss a few weeks to fully recover. This leaves junior quarterback Michael Grandfield with the responsibility of filling those shoes and leading this senior-laden team in his absence. His injury is considered “week-to-week” and the coaches hope to have him back before the Indians get too deep into their rigorous conference schedule. “We just need to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Sylvia. “Just keep doing what we’re doing and let’s get it done.” Todman in the backfield and with Sylvia out temporarily, the Indians will need to spread the ball around to their numerous offensive weapons in order to match their success from the previous seasons and, as Mr. White said, “fill the void.” “Every team has its own identity,” said Mr. White. It looks like the town of Dartmouth will have to wait and see what that identity will look like this year. And with this incredibly talented senior class at the forefront, and an impressive 3–0 start, the future looks promising.