The Day's All-Area Football Player of the Year: Norwich Free Academy's Andrew Cote

They could be walking together inside a mall, for example, with all the mannerisms high school kids have. Bystanders might have certain thoughts about Andrew and Nate Cote — gee, they look like typical high school kids, perhaps — but a pair of really good football players? 

“They’d probably think soccer or track,” Andrew Cote said with a grin. “Maybe cross country because we’re pretty skinny. Definitely not football.” 

Oh, but they do football. And while Nate, a linebacker, blew holes in opposing offensive schemes, it’s Andrew, the receiver, whose impact was felt greatest throughout the conference and state. 

Andrew Cote, senior receiver at Norwich Free Academy, caught 63 passes for 1,139 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He’s The Day’s 2019 All-Area Football Player of the Year, having solidified this resume among some quality competition across Connecticut, including Xavier, Fairfield Prep, Shelton, Glastonbury, West Haven and eventual Class LL state champion Newtown.

Good thing the Cotes, a Lisbon family, decided not just to play football, but to do so at NFA. 

“When we were young, we played soccer because I don’t think our mom wanted us to play football,” Andrew said. “We hated it. Finally, she let us play flag football and we were pretty good. Our dad convinced her to let us play real football and it took off from there. Now Mom’s our biggest fan.” 

The Cotes had the option of playing at Griswold. They knew playing time would be more immediate. 

“We picked NFA because I knew the opportunities we had,” Andrew said. “Griswold is smaller and we’d probably play a lot earlier, but to compete for state championships is what I wanted. We played against all the Norwich kids in youth football and knew how good they were. To be on the same team — and I knew I had to work to be a starter — but we got to compete against some of the best teams in the state.” 

It was a memorable season at NFA, perhaps belying the 7-4 record. Good record, not great. But a great year nonetheless: The conference’s Division I championship, playoff berth and the best lesson of all: Don’t ever give up. 

Cote authored the signature play in the region this year, connecting with teammate Max Pierre Louis on a hook-and-ladder to beat Killingly on the game’s last play. NFA trailed by eight with a little more than two minutes remaining. 

“The hook and ladder signifies everything our team is about,” Andrew said. “Last play, chances pretty small. We never stopped fighting and that’s exactly what that play showed.” 

The “never stopped fighting” thing was evident in other ways. As in: Cote caught nearly 1,200 yards' worth of passes from three different quarterbacks. Starter Austin Richards, who set NFA’s single-game passing yards record against Glastonbury, got hurt the next week. Backup Jakob Hosko, who led the Wildcats to a win at East Lyme, got hurt the next week. That put the season in the hands of Jayden Desilus, who made the sure the ball got in the hands of Cote. 

“It was definitely hard at times,” Andrew said. “At the beginning playing with Austin, he made it easy for me. We played with each other in JV, so he had a lot of faith in me. I think I showed if you get me the ball, I can make a play. So all three quarterbacks came to trust me. 

“In the summer, we thought we’d be good. We had a lot of seniors, almost 30. We expected to make the playoffs, to be honest. The way we got there was unimaginable. Who loses three quarterbacks? That’s insane. It’s crazy to think we got where we did.” 

Cote has several college football considerations, including Delaware, Endicott, Central Connecticut, Southern Connecticut, Western Connecticut and Assumption.

m.dimauro@theday.com

The Day's 2019 All-Area Football Team

Player of the Year — Andrew Cote (NFA)

Offense

Quarterback — Ryan Bakken (Waterford)

Running back — Cam Hart (East Lyme)

Wide receiver — Damien Bleau (NFA), Sam Menders (Waterford), Nolan Molkenthin (NFA), Mike Vincent (Waterford)

Lineman — Ben Conrad (Valley Regional/Old Lyme), Chris Green (NFA), Jeremiah Harshberger (Waterford), Lavery Hill (NFA), Vincent Trento (Fitch)

Kicker — Evan Burdy (Fitch)

Utility — Frankie Pratts (New London)

Defense

Lineman — Joe Klick (NFA), Jose Rosario (Waterford), Zach Todd (East Lyme)

Linebacker — Nate Cote (NFA), Brayden Grim (Ledyard), Jackson Harshberger (Waterford), Roark Ryan (Thames River)

Defensive back — Trey Brennan (Waterford), Scott Galbo (East Lyme), Xavier Marquez (NFA), Ethan Mojica (Fitch)

Punter — Branden Matias (East Lyme)

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