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Bennett, Raiders eye ultimate prize

After earning TVL Small Offensive Player of the Year honors as a junior, Johnny Bennett (4) will serve as one of four Dover-Sherborn football co-captains this fall. Photos by Mike Flanagan.

By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

After waiting an extra seven months to play due to COVID, the Dover-Sherborn High School varsity football put together an impressive 4-1 spring season in March/April, which included wins over rivals Medfield (13-0) and Medway (17-0).

This fall, the Raiders return a significant portion of their roster from the spring and enter the season as one of the favorites to win TVL Small. Leading DS will be three senior co-captains: slot receiver, safety and return-man Johnny Bennett, middle linebacker and slot receiver Henry Murphy and left tackle/defensive lineman Ryan Kane.

Other returning starters for the Raiders include running back/safety Efosa Imade, wideout Aiden Hirsch, defensive back Emilio Cabey, linebacker Derek Daly, wideout/defensive back Michael Polk and running back Will Bowen. With Grady Russo transferring to the Thayer, junior Daniel Sullivan will take over the reins as Dover-Sherborn's starting quarterback in 2021.

Johnny Bennett enters his senior football season looking to add to his already long list of accomplishments during his time as a Raider. Bennett is the reigning TVL Small offensive player of the year in football, the school record holder in the 55-dash in track, and helped the lacrosse team to the 2021 Division III state championship. Asked about his team's general goals and expectations for the season, Bennett kept it simple: beat Medfield and win the TVL.

"Winning the TVL is always a goal for us," said Bennett. "We haven’t won the TVL since 1978, so it would be historic for our program to bring that home. The last time DS won the TVL, my dad was on the team, so it’s been a very long time. The Medfield game on Thanksgiving is always huge for us and it would be great to beat them on our home field. Beating Medfield last year was definitely the highlight of our season and playing Medfield in any sport is always exciting and attracts a big crowd."

As far as training for the upcoming season, Bennett says this fall 2021 season will be far different than the spring, when he and his teammates had seemingly unlimited time to prepare and get their bodies in shape. However, the lack of preparation between football and lacrosse in April was challenging, according to Bennett. After winning the state championship with DS lax in early July, it'll be another quick turnaround for Bennett to get his body back into football shape.

"One benefit of the later season last year was having more time to prepare in the weight room and on the field with the team doing player-run preseason workouts," said Bennett. "There was all of three days between football and lacrosse, so there was really no time to prepare for lacrosse in the months leading up to the season. We had a ton of football players who had to make the transition to lacrosse but we were all in good shape because coach Ryan pushes us to be in shape. Lacrosse is a lot more endurance than repeated short sprints like football, but the conditioning carries over pretty well. It was tough getting lifting workouts in and putting muscle on during lacrosse, so most kids just tried to maintain size and once the summer started we have had a good group of guys committed to the weight room. We have all seen significant gains in strength and conditioning from working out four times a week."

Fellow co-captain Henry Murphy agreed with Bennett's assessment of the Raiders' training methods for the upcoming season.

"Honestly, the football team looked at having a delayed start as an advantage," said Murphy. "A good portion of our team took the time before the season to gain weight and put on muscle, as well as learn the plays and get mentally prepared. After making the best of our football season, we headed into lacrosse in the best shape of our lives and with a great amount of mental toughness, thanks to Coach Ryan. Now, heading back into football season, the boys are as excited as ever to pick up where we ended last year and continue our dominance. I think that a lot of teams looked at quarantine the wrong way. Yes, it was tough for many obvious reasons, but the Dover-Sherborn football and lacrosse teams chose to look at it as a positive. This positive mentality payed dividends as we entered both seasons hungrier and more prepared than our opponents."

The Raiders will open up the 2021 season on the road at Weston on September 10 at 7 p.m.

For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.

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