Saturday, August 19, 2017

MIAA Football Camp Road Trip: The Algonquin Tomahawks

New Algonquin coach Taylor Allen coaches up running back John Polymeros during the T-Hawks' first day of camp.

By Ethan Winter (@EWints

NORTHBOROUGH – While it was certainly a shock when former Algonquin head football coach Justin McKay announced to his team that he would not be returning to coach them next season, the Tomahawks look to continue the progress that McKay has made with the program.

“We were all shocked, it was kind of random but we bounced back from that and it hasn’t set us back at all," running back John Polymeros said. "We are just excited to move on to this year.”

Last season the Tomahawks had their best season since the Dick Walsh coached teams of the 1980s, coming within two games of playing at Gillette Stadium in the Division 2 Super Bowl. Algonquin lost to Mid-Wach A rival Shrewsbury 21-14 in the Division 2 Central Mass final.

The Tomahawks lost 22 seniors and their head coach from that team last year, but even with all the personnel turnover, everything for the most part is staying the same.

“Everything is pretty much staying the same for the most part except for a few wrinkles on offense personnel wise,” said new Algonquin head coach Taylor Allen.

“New” is a relative term, as Allen has been on the coaching staff under McKay for the last few years, and has learned a lot from McKay about being a successful coach.

“With Coach McKay, his preparation separated himself tenfold when comparing him to other coaches,” said Allen. “I learned how to prepare, to game plan against a team just by sitting in the meeting room on Sunday afternoons and mornings game planning against tough defenses. He was more run game oriented, and that was one of my weaknesses was the run game, and I learned a ton working with Justin.”

Allen believes that it was important to the Algonquin Athletic Director to keep it in house and to hire within to make sure that there was continuity from Coach McKay to the next coach.

“I think the continuity part is huge because I know what these kids can do, I’ve coached them last year in previous years, and I know what they are capable of and I know how important it is to keep the winning culture going here at Algonquin," Allen said. "But, most importantly, giving them the attention that they need in order to be successful."  

For the new kids and returning players, they are excited for what the season may bring with Allen at the helm.

“I’m totally excited,” said senior Zach Smith. “Last year it was fun having McKay. Obviously, with the new coach it’s a different experience for all of us, but thankfully he’s been through the program before and he’s a really great dude.”

Much like their coach, who is only 28, the Tomahawks are a very young team after losing 22 seniors from last year’s D 2 Central Mass finalist squad.

“Leadership is going to be the biggest loss for us from losing those 22 seniors," Allen said. "But we’ve got leaders that you haven’t heard about before, you’ll find out real quick who the leaders are, not only in the stat sheet but special teams and even on the sidelines that you don’t hear about, and the guys that are on the scout team are being rewarded for sure by seeing the guys out on game day go out there and succeed."

Both Polymeros and Courtwright are going to be big pieces on offense, with Polymeros taking over the feature back role from his older brother Billy Polymeros who graduated last spring.

“He’s our two back and he complements the right side of our offense. He’s a great route runner as well, he’s a burner, has a high motor and is a tough kid to tackle for sure, so I’m excited to see him run around and make some plays,” said Allen.

While Courtwright will be the defensive captain as the “Mike” linebacker, he will also be a huge part of the offense as the tight end.

“Ryan Courtwright is going to be making plays for us all over the field on defense, but offensively he probably has the surest hands of anybody on the team,” Allen praised.

Two other key offensive players for the Tomahawks will be first year starting quarterback, senior Hayden Kea, who taking over for Ryan Barry, and Smith, who will be the four back/slot receiver.

Senior quarterback Hayden Kea hands off to Polymeros.

“I think the quarterback role is crucial," Allen said. "Taking the time to teach the new quarterback, he’s not really new, but coming up to the varsity level, it’s a little bit different than the JV world, so taking a lot of time and sitting down with Hayden Kea, he’s going to be that guy taking the ball from under center and will be in charge of the huddle. Zach Smith has been getting some reps in what we call the four back but he will be in the slot, he is the best route runner that we have and will be getting the ball a lot for running the ball."

Kea doesn’t seem to be fazed by any potential challenges that he may face being the new QB1 for the Algonquin Tomahawks.

“It’s going to be a little bit different, but then again all of the starters from last year, most of them are going to be gone too, so the kids that I’m playing with now are the same kids that I have been playing with for the last three years," Kea said. "So with John, Smitty and Ryan all great receivers I have nothing short of options."

Offensively the Tomahawks will look to spread out the offense a bit more than last season.

Defensively, Allen and the Tomahawks plan on running the same 4-3 defense as last year.

At the end of the day it’s about continuing the recent winning tradition of Algonquin football that McKay helped build, and now Allen hopes to keep going.

“As long as everyone does their job the right way, we will be successful,” concluded Allen.

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