GROTON -- For what they lacked in size and numbers, the six Groton-Dunstable football seniors made up in willingness, want and desire. For head coach Derek Asadoorian, the bond he developed with the six senior players team was strong and unwavering.
"When they came into the program as freshmen there were 13 of them," Asadoorian said. "These guys have been committed since they were freshmen and stayed in it because they are all tough. They are all great leaders.
"I am pretty fond of this group," he said. "I got to know these guys really well. Because of their commitment to the program, I really appreciate what they did for themselves, for me and the program. Coaching is a lot of work and it is nice to have guys who know what to put into the program and have respect for the program the way they do."
Linebacker and guard AJ Dufresne played in his first full season on varsity after dealing with bouts of illness and injury. He started the season on offense filling in at guard when the injury bug nipped the Crusaders offensive line. Dufresne's value to his team, however, was primarily on the defensive side of the ball.
"This is his first year playing varsity," Asadoorian said. "He was a pivotal player on defense for us and filled in nicely on the offensive line as he was needed."
Anchoring the offensive line was center Alex Martinec, who, while undersized, proved to be a tough match-up for opposing defensive linemen. Martinec started all four years on varsity and was very consistent. His tough-as-nails persona allowed him to hang with oftentimes much larger opposition.
At left guard was Ben Lutkevich who used his grit and toughness to get the job done.
And, then there is the on-field general, Quintin Forbes. Forbes is a two-year captain who came in at the start of the season as a running back. But he smoothly made the transition to quarterback after Groton-Dunstable lost its starter, Mack Eberhardt, who moved out of state.
"Quintin Forbes is the only player in Groton-Dunstable history to start all four years," Asadoorian said. "He is in the top three players who I have coached in terms of his football IQ. He's a cliché quarterback who is almost like having another coach on the field. He has a knack for the game. It is unfortunate that he missed so many games with injury this season."
Running back Tristan Lynch surprised Asadoorian with his hard-nosed rushing technique. That toughness helped earn Lynch a starting spot in the Crusaders lineup at running back.
"All of my seniors would be considered generally on the small side," the coach said. "He (Lynch) is another kid who played running back for us that was undersized. We asked a lot of him on both sides of the football. It was his first year really playing varsity. He really got a lot of reps at the varsity level and he made himself into an all-star.
"He was a jayvee football player last year," the coach said of Lynch. "I can't say enough about his work-ethic, toughness and size. He's got a low-center of gravity, and despite his size, he can run people over."
At tight end and defensive end was Joey Stewart. The two-way player was one of Forbes prime targets this season, and it was due to his unbridled effort.
"I really think that Joey emerged into a really important leader of our team this year," the coach said. "He just did a lot of different things that we need leaders to do. He is very mature, intelligent and committed to what we are doing. He is another player who I didn't have to worry about. I didn't have to worry about any of the seniors in terms of their commitment and attitude, in terms of helping the younger kids develop. They did everything you would expect seniors to do, and I got it from every single one of those guys."
Whether any of these senior players will continue their playing careers in college, time will tell. Forbes has expressed interest in playing lacrosse at Bentley University, but is still undecided about football. A little known fact about Stewart is his value as a long-snapper.
"Joey Stewart is a phenomenal long-snapper," he said. "He has been our long-snapper for four years. He has been an incredible asset and blessing to have for four years. He's got a great school. He is looking at some bigger schools, and I wouldn't put it past him to walk-on at a bigger school and snap in college football."