Thrown into Varsity

DHS football team consists the largest population of underclassmen during 2023 season compared years prior
Thrown into Varsity

Underclassmen who are appointed to varsity football are given a huge opportunity but, at the same time, are put up to face the challenge of having to prove that they are where they’re supposed to be.

Dearborn High School’s varsity football team currently consists of 11 seniors, 29 juniors and 11 sophomores: Adam Hazime, Christopher Hammock, Ahmad Sayed, Scott Szalkowski, Ali Badaoui, Lucas Salyers, DaQuanPerry, Mohammed Salha, Karl Wolski, Adam Hossein, and Nayef Awada. A large majority of the work being put into the team is done by these students who are still learning the ropes of varsity football.

Sophomore and quarterback for the team Scott Szalkowski said being placed into varsity was intimidatingespecially since he became the lightest player on the team weighing 140 lbs compared to the average weight of a player on the team being 197. He is also one of the shortest players at 5 ‘9. “It hits a lot harder and the guys are a lot bigger,” Szalkowski said. “It’s harder because I can’t see over everyone, It’s why I run around a lot, it’s so I can see.”

Sophomore and Defensive End on DHS varsity football Chris Hammock said that getting close with his teammates and growing together assists him in assimilating to the new frontier. “It’s sometimes difficult proving myself to the upperclassmen though, being respected by them,” Hammock said. “It’s a lot more complicated playing on varsity than it was on freshman,”

Sophomore and receiver and Safety on the team Ahmad Sayed said that you have to constantly be pushing yourself and exceeding your limits being on the team and all the underclassmen are in it together.

“There’s a lot of stress, there’s a lot of people older than you playing your position so you kind of have to work harder than everyone else. Varsity is a lot faster, you gotta know more things and know more plays,” Sayed said. “Most of us played at Bryant in 8th grade, there’s only a few people that went to different schools. We’re all really close, every single one of us. We’re always hanging out and doing a lot of things together.”

Sophomore and starting cornerback Ali Badaoui said that the people he gets to surround himself with while being on the field help push him to grow as a player. “Especially with the sophomores, we’re all just close with each other. I feel like we’re only gonna get closer as we grow older. The older guys are a little harsh on us, but it makes me feel like I have to prove myself and it pushes me to do better,” Badaoui said. “We have to be perfect to stay on varsity because if we mess up they’re going to move us down. I feel like if I mess up, everyone’s going to be disappointed.”

Sophomore linebacker Lucas Salyers added that the upperclassmen shape younger players through tough love and setting high standards. “With the older players, it almost feels as if it’s a brotherly relationship,” Slayers said. “We gotta compete a lot in order to stay where we are. You have the thought that when you mess up that you’re not as good as you made yourself out to be but you can’t overthink, you just gotta keep working at it.”

Most decisions made on the team such as who gets to play on the field are done with the final say of the team’s captains. Varsity Football Captain and DHS senior Hassan Sareini said that he’s noticed that the sophomores drive and inspire one another to improve through the tight-knit relationship shared between them. “There are connections with guys that have played together before and also guys that just because they are sophomores, connect with each other too, even if they haven’t played in the past together,” Sareini said. “I think it has something to do with the fact that they’re both in the same position: we’re both under this microscope and challenged a lot more. There’s comradery between these guys, they know they have each other’s backs.”

Head coach of the team Alex Grignon said it’s important to put players where they can gain the most experience. Whether it’s appointing underclassmen to varsity or downplaying Juniors to JV, he makes sure each player has the best opportunity they can get; his main goal is to nurture stronger and more capable players in the long run. “Especially at the lower levels, reps and development are a lot more important than wins and losses. There are no JV playoffs. There are no freshman playoffs,” Grignon said. “Do I want our kids to be successful? Of course, but I’m not going to sacrifice their development for trying to be successful. At the end of the day, varsity is all that matters, and in the grand scheme of things, the quicker we can get them ready for varsity, the better.”

Grignon mentioned that the greatest challenge he’s noticed that the underclassmen tend to struggle with is the shift to a faster-paced environment.

“I’d say the mental aspect of it would be the biggest thing to adjust to and they’ve all done a pretty good job. They play with great effort and energy,” Grignon said. “And you have to play with passion in football. It’s not a game you can kind of just go do halfway. Those guys wouldn’t be up with us on varsity if they lacked in any of those areas.”

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