SCHUYLERVILLE — If he was going to make a return to football, Orion Anderson made a deal with himself.
He wasn’t coming back just to participate.
“I’m going all in,” Anderson told himself. “I’m going to make an impact.”
That attitude has guided Anderson, a Schuylerville senior, to be one of the best wrestlers in the state throughout his high school career. On the mat, Anderson has won two state championships, his latest one coming this past winter at 120 pounds.
On the gridiron?
Yeah, Anderson’s doing quite OK in his first varsity season, his first time playing competitive football since he was in the eighth grade.
“He was awesome last week,” Schuylerville head coach John Bowen said Thursday. “He just played awesome.”
Bucking the trend of single-sport specialists, Anderson opted to suit up for the Black Horses this season. His impact has been immediate, as he made a host of tackles and recovered two fumbles from his linebacker position in Schuylerville’s 47-14 Week 1 thrashing of Schalmont. One of Anderson’s fumble recoveries ended with him celebrating in the end zone after his first touchdown.
“He was huge for us,” Schuylerville senior lineman Thomas Donovan said. “I mean, the fumble recovery was a big momentum shift, but he had a lot of nice tackles, too. He’s a great athlete, a state champion. He has experience in big situations.”
Anderson has plenty of that from his time wrestling in the state tournament. When it comes to football, Anderson’s lack of experience primarily reveals itself on offense, where he’s still getting himself up to speed with the game’s finer points and terminology.
On defense? Anderson is undersized as a 5-foot-3, 140-pound linebacker, but his aggression and wrestling background more than make up for that.
“The game is the game,” Bowen said. “If you’ve got that fire, that heart for competition, then I don’t care if you’ve been away for 10, 15 years — you’re still going to go out, fight, compete and be OK. . . . That competitor in him never shuts down. We’re trying to take advantage of that.”
Anderson, a Binghamton University commit for wrestling, focused on wrestling during his first few years of high school. The itch to play football, though, never really went away. Late this past spring, Anderson said he made the decision to try to play this season — about a year after his football buddies had given up on asking him to come back to the sport.
“The main thing is I just wanted to have a great senior year,” said Anderson, who plans to wrestle at 132 pounds this winter. “I knew I could be a help to this team and I always loved playing.”
Even without Anderson, Schuylerville would have been one of the top teams in Section II Class B this season. The Black Horses get a major chance to show their strength in Week 2, as Schuylerville looks to improve to 2-0 when it plays host Friday to Hudson, last year’s sectional runner-up.
Hudson eliminated Schuylerville from the 2016 postseason, but Black Horses senior running back/defensive back Derek Willson said last year’s result won’t be on the minds of this year’s players when Friday’s kickoff comes around.
“We can’t look past the fact we have to win this game,” said Willson, who rushed for a pair of touchdowns last week. “It’s one week at a time here. We’re not looking past this week.”
“So we’re not pumping this up as a revenge game,” Bowen said. “We know we’re about to face a very good football team and that’s what we need to focus on.”
Hudson lost 34-0 last week to Glens Falls, the reigning state champions. If Glens Falls and Schuylerville keep winning — and they should — those teams would meet in a major matchup in Week 6 at Schuylerville.
By then, Anderson should be even more comfortable back playing football. That’s a scary thought for opponents — and a welcome one for a Black Horses squad expecting a lot from its 2017 season.
“I’m just glad I can be a part of it,” Anderson said.