TEWKSBURY — While most Tewksbury Memorial High School sports and clubs have had to curtail their seasons or reimagine their events due to COVID-19, there is one team that has been able to keep right on meeting, strategizing and competing with no risk to their respiratory health. The TMHS REDMN — the school’s esports team — has been working hard and competing with other teams around the state, directly from home, in the fastest growing competition on the planet.
The team just wrapped up its second season for Tewksbury, having expanded its roster and complement of games the team competes in.
According to team advisor and computer science teacher Sanford Arbogast, “this was our second season for League of Legends and three of our players returned from last year — Keegan Hannan, Dew Azzalina and Tommy Branchaud.”
The Legends made the playoffs both seasons and finished 7th out of 17 teams, losing to powerhouse Shrewsbury in the quarterfinals.
Other Legends teammates are Ryan Edwards, Marysa Gomes, with subs Bobby Branchaud, Christian Queiroga, Win Bo and Yuri Guimaraes. Arbogast is confident the underclassmen will keep the strong team going for several more years.
The esports team was started in early 2020 when a group of students advocated for its formation. Arbogast, who had some of the students in class, researched the sport and quickly found that Massachusetts had almost 40 teams at the time, and some schools even had multiple teams in the high school arena. Prior to the stay-at-home order issued by Governor Charlie Baker, the team was working on its ranking in the state.
“We’ve just shifted to playing from home and improving skills” said Arbogast, who acts as a facilitator for the team along with teacher David Moffat. “I don’t play the game, but I support their work” he said.
Arbogast said that the group scouts out different teams, watching their matches online and looking for strengths and weaknesses in the game League of Legends. Members watch for characters and their roles in a game, assessing the use of features such as “boosts” and “weapons.” The team comes up with a game plan to prep for each match.
The esports team started competing in another game in the 2020/2021 school year, Rocket League, racking up an impressive regular season standing of 4th out of 18 teams. The varsity team was also the only team not to be shut out by Shrewsbury High School all season.
Led by freshman Peter Impink, junior Ryan Melo and sophomore Andy Harlalka, the group lost to state champions Shrewsbury in the semifinals but are ready for the spring pre-season which starts Feb. 16 and the regular season starting March 2.
Not to be outdone is the TMHS Rocket League Regional team of sophomores Alex Arbogast and Mitchell Nicolas and freshman Jeremy Insogna who finished the regular season 159th out of 441 teams. Juniors Matthews Marques and Win Bo helped as subs for the team as well.
Arbogast was thrilled to have two Rocket League teams in the first season and said that the players took turns streaming the matches live on Twitch, an online viewing platform for gaming.
Arbogast said that in addition to Rocket League and League of Legends, Play VS had added FIFA 21 and Madden 21 for the PS4 and Smash Bros Ultimate for the Switch. Play VS is the hosting platform used for high school esports teams. Matches are live streamed on YouTube for fans to watch, and past matches may be viewed on Arbogast’s YouTube channel. Many of the students also participate in traditional sports such as soccer, track and baseball in other seasons, but train with the same intensity for esports.
There are over 100 colleges with programs for esports programs now due to the explosion in online gaming. Not all students participate for that reason, but the emergence of the TMHS esports team heralds a new path for the school not only for championships, but for future fields of study and career paths for students.