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Chandler has Sandstoners on right track

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POTSDAM — Jim Kirka had no idea during the first day of football practice that senior Aaron Chandler would emerge as his top offensive lineman this season.

Kirka, Potsdam High School’s football coach, knew Chandler had good size, but he also knew that the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder was only in his third year playing the sport competitively.

“He worked hard and I tell all the kids if they work hard they’ve got a chance to play,” Kirka said. “I knew he was going to come in and do a decent job. We started getting in games against bigger linemen and I knew he was able to handle the task. You never know for sure what a kid can do when they go against great competition.”

There will be no greater competition for Chandler and the Sandstoners (8-0 overall) than tonight’s Northern Athletic Conference Tier I title game against Malone, which begins at 7 p.m. at Potsdam High School.

Potsdam edged the Huskies 35-27 in a home game in the third week of the regular season.

“I love facing (Malone) because it’s always a big struggle,” Chandler said. “My overall favorite team to face is Malone. They have a great, amazing quarterback (Mitchell Gallagher) and their line is good. They have a very solid team. You have to be on your game the whole time. You can’t make mistakes, have to be 100 percent through the whole game.”

Regardless of what happens tonight Potsdam will have a game for a spot in the state playoffs next Friday night at home against Massena. But that doesn’t lessen the importance of this game for Chandler.

“It’s not a do-or-die, but it’s something we owe to ourselves,” Chandler said. “It’s something we want to work for. It’s very important to us. I wanted to leave (as a senior) with the section championship. It’s something I need to do. It’s my last time facing this team and I want to go out with a bang and just play my heart out in this game.

“I’m going to miss this place. The coaches are great. The teammates are great.”

It is only Chandler’s third year of football, but it’s evident that the sport has grown on him and become a passion and even life-changing. While he focuses on his final season he’s also beginning to talk with colleges, including St. Lawrence University, about playing the game at that level next fall.

“He’s very consistent, that’s the big thing,” Kirka said. “He understands what he needs to do and he’s smart. You don’t have to tell him 10 times what to do. He picks up on it. For never playing the game, he’s really done a great job of picking it up.”

Chandler is a tackle on offense and plays end when the Sandstoners are on defense.

“I’m safer playing offensive line, but I love playing defensive line just for the tackling and the pure aggression that goes into it,” Chandler said. “I’m more confident in the offensive role.”

There are no real stats for a high school offensive lineman, but when Chandler sees how many running backs on his team rushed for 100 or more yards in a game, he knows that he and the rest of the linemen performed well.

“They couldn’t do that without the line,” Chandler said. “I’m pleased to see (a running back) is getting 100 yards because of the line. If we are doing our job, they are going to get those stats. We have one of the best lines and I’m proud to be part of that line. We give our running backs these stats.”

Success hasn’t made Chandler cocky or arrogant, he still has a desire to continue learning and he hopes to do that even more next year in college.

“I’ve been looking at SLU and talking to them a little bit,” Chandler said. “I’d be really interested to go there. I’d love to play in college. It would be an amazing experience. I just love this game so much. It’s become such a big part of my life, that I just don’t see it ending for me right here. Physically, it’s changed me a lot. It’s made me stronger and faster. I just love it.”

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