SWANZEY — It’s hard to imagine many teams experienced as much roster turnover as Monadnock did between this year and last. Of the 30 players on the Huskies’ 2018 Division III championship team, nearly half of them were lost to graduation this past spring.
As a result, third-year head coach Ryan Avery says every position is essentially up for grabs as he looks to fill the holes left behind by the 13 kids who have moved on to the next stage of their lives. Upperclassmen Joey Drew, Lincoln Blodgett and Justin Joslyn lead the returnees.
“(Blodgett and Joslyn) are two of the guys who have been around for a few years,” Avery said. “They know what we do and what we’re all about. I expect those guys to fill in nicely for the two running backs that left. Those guys (including Drew) will be the ones that show everybody how we do things and how we operate day in and day out. They’ve been through it and they’ve been in the fire for a few years already.”
The backfield is actually one of the few spots that Avery isn’t too concerned about. Monadnock is a run-heavy team due to its wishbone scheme, which calls for the quarterback to line up under center with a fullback behind him and two running backs split to each side a few yards behind the fullback. Its purpose is to create multiple options for the quarterback to hand the ball off to. With Blodgett and Joslyn already experienced, the biggest portion of the offense is all set.
The quarterback position is what needs addressing. Though the Huskies don’t throw the ball all that often, Avery still needs a capable guy under center to make sure things run smoothly.
“We’re looking for an athletic quarterback,” he said. “When I say we’re run-heavy, we do throw the ball some so he’s gotta be accurate, he’s gotta be athletic and he’s gotta be a game manager. He’s gotta figure out what the defense is doing and work around it that way.”
Junior Nate Doyle and sophomore Carson Shanks are firmly entrenched in a battle to start at quarterback with last year’s starter Tim Santaw now playing at Castleton University in Vermont. Despite being a year older, Doyle doesn’t have as much experience as Shanks, with the latter getting the chance to play sporadically last season.
The defense still needs some sorting out but even with all the uncertainty there isn’t a sense that the team is falling behind where it needs to be.
“I think with the younger kids it’s the speed of the game from JV to varsity that they’re trying to get caught up with,” Avery said. “Losing a bunch of guys gives guys an opportunity to compete, so we’ve had great competition and preseason of trying to figure out who’s going to take what spot and who’s gonna get what spot. That works out good for us.”
“This year it’s a whole new team and a whole new mindset,” Blodgett added. “Our new thing is ‘earn it.’ Everybody has to earn a spot. It’s not anything different. All the new kids coming in are doing really well and I think we’ll do well this year. I think we’re probably going a little faster (in our progression). I feel like we’re doing better. I feel like with so many people at different positions it’s teaching everybody a different role that they’ve never been in before this year.”
That’s where Drew, Blodgett and Joslyn come in. With all the player movement, younger guys are looking at them for guidance as they make the transition to new positions and roles.
“We just gotta stay on them and encourage them,” Drew said. “I feel like that will help their confidence a lot to fill those positions that we lost. There’s definitely a lot of underclassmen that came up this year and they’re big boys and they’re really trying to fill in people’s shoes.”
“You gotta help everyone out,” Joslyn added. “We have to do our best to make sure we’re all on the same page. We’ve been hustling and working hard and just trying to get faster and better.”
Avery isn’t in a hurry to put any expectations on this season. He just wants his players to improve but also understands teams will be coming for Monadnock.
“It’s something we talk about all the time,” he said. “Teams are going to play their best against us so it’s something we’ve gotta be ready for. I still think they’ll be able to handle it, though.”