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Andrew’s Nick George shows players and coaches the ball after making a diving catch off a deflected pass in the end zone during drills in preseason camp in Tinley Park. JEFF VORVA/22ND CENTURY MEDIA
Jonathan Barlas, Freelance Reporter
3:21 pm CDT August 23, 2019

In his fourth year at the helm of Andrew football, coach Adam Lewandowski’s intensity to the game is at a fever pitch.

During the first day of padded practices Aug. 13, Lewandoswki stood tall in Oklahoma drills in the T-Bolt’s practice area behind the “Thunderdome” — leading his team by demonstrating proper tackling technique.

Screaming and shouting for quality repetitions and overall excellence, Lewandowski’s logic has always lied in the simplest premise of football: toughness.

“If you’re going to prepare to do something that is inherently violent and aggressive, you have to preach intensity and practice that,” he said. “When we’re together, our tempo is going to be the same as it is in the game, and if we were to do things in a different manner — doing things that are going to be far less that what you’d see in a game — I feel like we’d be doing ourselves a disservice as a program.”

Third-year varsity running back Rocco Iannantone, who led the T-Bolts’ to back-to-back Illinois High School Association Class 7A playoff appearances, not only mirrored Lewandowski’s call to action but also was excited to suit up and hit somebody for the first time this summer.

“Not being able to hit in summer camp and the [first] two days of tryouts was a bummer,” he said. “It’s fun to finally just get to let it all loose.”

The past two years, Andrew football’s culture has made a complete 180-degree turn. From suffering a 1-8 season in 2016, the past two seasons have brought forth a much more optimistic outcome, slating dual 6-4 records and reaching the playoffs twice.

Losing core seniors in quarterback Tom Schiller and linebacker Ameer Aqel to graduation, the T-Bolts’ depth and culture still looks to be “ahead of schedule,” according to Andrew’s head coach.

“When I came to Andrew, I had this five-year plan, and for now when I look at this team and see the progression we’ve all gone through together. It is a very strong continuation of what we’ve built. It’s a maturation process.”

Junior quarterback Trevor Griffin was getting snaps early in camp.

Falling to eventual state champion Nazareth Academy 42-11 in the first round of the playoffs, a quick turnaround for success is what Lewandowski focuses on.

“We want to continue to build that buy-in, and I feel like each of the last two seasons was an improvement,” he said. “I feel like we have the best individual efforts as a team. Our record didn’t really show our improvement as much, but now we really look to change that both for ourselves and for the community.”

Iannantone said that although the personnel changes were a bit awkward at first, the team has ultimately come together in initial practices.

“I felt like this summer it was a little weird because last year I felt that we had one of the best chemistry-teams that have ever gone through Andrew high school,” Iannatone said. “At the beginning it was a little odd, but starting the first week of football we’ve come together and we look a lot better than when we started.”

Andrew’s first opponent, Kewakskum, is the initial test the T-Bolts’ will face at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, in Wisconsin.

“These seniors are my first freshman I’ve had,” he said. “For this group, I feel like I’ve known them over the course of these four years. So, when I talked to everybody before the season, the focus now is on putting everything we’ve been talking about and working toward — all those platitudes that mean something to us intrinsically — into practice. I want them to be the ones to get past those six wins.”