Dalton Andrews says ‘team bonding’ crucial

J. Patrick Eaken

The announced November 4 start of the Mid-American Conference football season is good for three Toledo Rockets who hail from local Northern Buckeye Conference schools.

It means that 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore kicker D.J. Wellons (Woodmore), 5-11, 191-pound freshman safety Jaden Rayford (Eastwood) and 6-2, 265-pound redshirt freshman offensive lineman Dalton Andrews (Eastwood) could be seeing action in the upcoming six-game MAC schedule.

None of the three have seen any significant game action as an NCAA Division I college player, if any, but cannot wait to get that opportunity.

“Everyone was hoping we are having a season,” Andrews said. “We were all hoping we would have a season — coaches and players, every member on our staff is wrapped around having a season.

“Everybody here kind of feels like we are locked in a cage and we can’t do much. We’re trying to work out as much as possible, we’re trying to see each other and become bonded as much as possible, get our chemistry back to where it was. We’re just trying to get ready to explode out of that cage and hit the ground running.”

All three are just now beginning their college careers in one fashion or another, and each has three to four years of eligibility remaining, so they are taught team bonding is the most important issue. Dalton says he takes that seriously.

“This year, I’m looking forward in all honesty to trying to bond with all of my teammates,” Andrews said. “Last season wasn’t our best performance and it wasn’t really because we weren’t athletically sound or athletically built. I think it was because we were a little down with our team chemistry. 

“So, I (was) really looking forward to seeing the guys again. This whole quarantine deal was kind of keeping some of the other guys from connecting and bonding with the team like we usually would. I’m looking forward to going back into the season and seeing all those guys again and trying to connect with them like I was able to do before.”

Andrews said the workouts continued even during the pandemic.

“I have a house with some of the other players right near campus,” Andrews said before the team restarted practices. “We’ve been having some workouts and conditioning with the strength staff, and I have been doing that three times a week. Besides that, I’ve been working out and running on my own during our off days just to try and get a little more in shape and try to get ahead of the game.”

Andrews loves playing for a program that has proven time and time again it can play with anybody, including teams from power five conferences.

“It’s amazing,” Andrews said. “Toledo is not one of the teams that are huge and big in the news, but we pride ourselves with being very sound with each other, being very physical and mentally sound when it comes to our game. That allows us to schedule some of these games that some people would say are out of our league, but we don’t think at any time. We can go toe to toe with anyone.”

Andrews earned first-team all-district honors as an offensive and defensive lineman at Eastwood. He won his school’s lineman of the year award and was a big part of the Eagles’ 2017 Division V state runner-up team. 

His senior year, Eastwood (14-1) lost the Division V state final 21-14 in overtime to perennial power Wheelersburg, but the game began to unfold once Andrews got hurt and had to head to the sideline before halftime, never getting back into the game again. The pressure he had been putting on the Wheelersburg quarterback was not there in the second half and in overtime.

That was part of the experience that prepared Andrews for playing NCAA D-I football.

“Eastwood prepared me really well,” Andrews said. “During that championship I did tear out my knee and I blew out my ACL. It was a really fun game — nice to play in. I was only able to play until the second quarter, but Eastwood prepared me for that game and prepared me to go to Toledo, even if I had an injury. 

“That was something that I really had to look back on. When I did blow out my knee and I didn’t have any leg, I wasn’t able to play sports for the rest of the year, but I still had all my teammates and everyone from Eastwood to fall back on,” Andrews continued.

“They said, ‘Well, you’ve still got Toledo to go to and you’ve still got all this, so you’ve got to work towards that’ and I never gave up and I kept working out and kept doing everything to the best of my ability before I went to Toledo, and Eastwood kind of picked me back up and now I’m here and I’m having a really fun time of my life right now.”

Rayford was also part of that state runner-up team, but that was only his sophomore year. In a grueling 15-game schedule, of which the All-Ohio running back missed one and a half games, he carried the ball 352 times for 2,205 yards, an average of 6.3 per carry, and 35 touchdowns. His longest run was 76 yards and he averaged 157.5 yards per game. 

Eastwood coach Craig Rutherford said there were times during his career when he would drag three or four guys with him into the end zone. Although he will play safety for the Rockets, Rayford ran for 1,454 yards on 164 carries (8.9 per carry) and 14 touchdowns as a junior and 1,220 yards on 131 carries (9.1) and 16 TDs as a senior.





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