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The Campus Lantern

Devils return to glory

Tobey Schwartz

The 2022-23 Devils football season ended in disappointment, finishing with a 3-8 record and a 41-14 loss in their final game against Malvern Prep. How could the league’s worst team just a season ago turn into a contender for the Inter-Ac Championship in 2023? Believe it or not, their seemingly sudden turnaround was the result of three simple steps.

The first step was fielding a more experienced starting core. Last season, the squad not only had a talented roster of juniors, they also only had four starting seniors. This meant the 2023 season saw a team whose core was mostly intact, but that had room for experienced team members who were previously substitution players to become starters. The young but able roster was therefore ready for the Inter-Ac’s intense level of competition; they were also familiar with the coach’s approach and techniques. 

Last year’s juniors became this year’s team anchors, and while not all of them started the season prior, the tremendous effort and assistance from coaches and teammates ensured they were ready. 

Despite their youth, the sophomores were also well-versed on the Blue Devils play, and with new recruits like DT Sadiek Willis and LB Johnny Nosal joining returning standouts like WR/DB Aaron Clark, the team quickly filled the gaps to form the starting core.

The second key step to the Devil’s turnaround was their commitment to practice and preparation. The team took seriously the need to consistently work on drills to simulate in-game experiences. Junior OL Grayson Scott used these practices to take the leap from a starting lineman to all Inter-Ac first team. When asked, Scott said that the reason he was successful in making the leap was his commitment to “putting in the extra hours, before practices and sometimes even after.” New starting DB Sophomore Charlie McFadden agreed, saying that, despite playing against very talented receivers, he “always felt prepared due to practices that let the game feel more like second nature.”

The Devils also used their young but talented JV squad as a scout team, which Coach Rick Knox articulated was key in “pushing the team and regularly giving them a challenge”. DT Sadiek Willis also said gameplanning was instrumental in helping the team “handle some of the top level talent found in the Inter-Ac.” Combined with film sessions and more intentional pre-game planning, the Devils  were well-prepared for play in a competitive conference.

The third and arguably biggest factor to the team’s overall success was the unity and team mentality formed not just during the season, but even as early as during the summer months. Players  quickly developed a brotherhood, especially the seniors, who Coach Knox said came into this season  “united behind a common goal”. Such shared vision  helped remove internal drama and, coupled with great team chemistry from the year prior, allowed the Devils to grow quickly and dramatically. Early in the season, anytime the team experienced low points, they would pick each other back up through encouragement and trust.

McFadden echoed this sentiment when he described  a dropped interception he experienced in his very first varsity start. Even after a loss, a rare moment for the Devils, the team’s attitude never swayed. Instead, the players kept their minds focused on the next game – an approach that would serve them well.

DT Sadiek Willis stated this well when, in admitting to a tough loss that wasn’t easy to stomach, he recalled how the team and its leaders fought hard to ensure the game didn’t become a  defining point of their season. Such a confident attitude helped propel the Devils past future opponents, ultimately sending them to the Inter-Ac Championship game  against conference-leading Malvern Prep.


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Roman Bostick
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    Sadiek WillisFeb 9, 2024 at 12:04 pm

    The abundance of details and reference to known SCH events combined with behind the scenes info paints a very vivid picture for a reader