Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Coke powers No. 11 Andover to new heights
By Scott Barboza
ANDOVER, Mass. -- The 2010 season was a wild ride for Andover's Andrew Coke.
Coke transferred back to his hometown high school from Brooks School to join his Golden Warrior teammates. It was also the first season for head coach E.J. Perry, who took over the program from John Rex. Adapting to his new surroundings, Coke self-admittedly got off to a slow start in his new surroundings.
"The first scrimmage last year, I probably had about 20 carries for five yards," the 6-foot-1 running back said.
Those meager beginnings were no indication of where Coke would end up. The ESPN Boston All-Stater grinded out 1,841 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns. As a hybrid running back and quarterback in the Golden Warriors' Wildcat-like offensive scheme, Coke also threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns. He had over 2,000 all-purpose yards.
All of Coke's contributions helped Andover to its first Merrimack Valley Conference title in 35 years and had them within an earshot of the Division 1 Super Bowl. The Golden Warriors had a season that started off a bit like that of their offensive leader.
"You have to remember, at one point last season we were 4-3," Perry said. "That's when we started to gel and come together as a team. We got smacked in the face by Chelmsford and then we woke up."
From there, Andover went on a run leading up to their Thanksgiving Day win over Central Catholic to clinch the MVC title.
Now, the 11th-ranked Golden Warriors have higher expectations than ever.
"We're willing to take that extra step to play in Foxborough," Coke said of their Super Bowl aspirations.
Coke's role will be slightly different this season. He's going to play defense as well, so with his time at safety mixed in, you might not see Coke rack up the 35-carry performances that become customary last year. Perry is also looking for junior C.J. Scarpa to hold down the quarterbacking duties. It would come as no surprise to see Coke under center again -- as became a necessity last season after Tom Dempsey was lost to injury -- however, Perry's looking to exploit Coke's athleticism more, meaning he'll be lined up more in the backfield, or even split out wide.
No matter what the circumstance, the Andover boss is happy to have the ball in No. 2's hands.
"He has a unique blend of power, speed and the ability to cut," Perry said. "I think his production made him the best back in the state last year. With his speed, and when you consider that he's bigger and faster this year, it's going to cause trouble for other teams."
Coke, who has received a lot of interest from Ivy League schools including Brown, Harvard and Princeton, is looking to take his game to another level. And, in the process, he'd like nothing better than to finish his short but fruitful Andover career with a win at Gillette Stadium.
But he won't soon forget how it all started.
"Things are a lot different this year," Coke said.
ANDOVER AT A GLANCE 2010 record: 8-4 (Lost to Everett in Division 1 playoffs)
Coach: E.J. Perry (2nd year, 8-4)
Players to watch: Andrew Coke, Sr. RB/S, 6-1, 200; T.J. Leeman, Sr. OL, 6-2, 270; Freddie Scribner, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 175; Matt Crush, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 225; Giovanni Rosano, Sr. LB; 6-0, 175; Brendan Paquette, Sr. TE/LB, 6-1, 175; Cam Farnham, Jr. SE, 5-8, 150; Will Heikkenen, Jr. SE, 6-2, 185; Ben Hartford, Soph. OL, 6-2, 250.
Strengths: Mental toughness, physical style of play.
Weakness: Experience at quarterback.
Outlook: As giddy as the Golden Warriors are about having another year with Coke, added cause for optimism lies in the offensive line. Andover returns "two and a half" (Perry's words) starters from the line last year, including Leeman and Crush. James Kelley also started during the second half of the year following a rash of injuries on the line. Sophomore tackle Ben Hartford is a name fans will be hearing in the coming years and associated with D1 college programs. Junior Andreas Christopulos takes over at center. On defense, Perry thinks he's found a replacement for the talented Ned Deane, who was very much the quarterback of the unit last year, in Rosano. "He's a tremendous linebacker and people are going to get to know him," Perry said. Paquette adds experience and skill to the linebacking corps while nose tackle Greg Brown will hold down lineman up front with his two-gapping ability.