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Indonesia teen wins top American football honour for elite Foxcroft Academy in Maine – two years after picking up the sport

  • Sekton Wandikbo, from Papua state, is picked for all-conference team as linebacker
  • Jayapura native first Asian overseas student to make impact in the game at the school
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 8:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 9:12pm

Indonesian teen Sekton Wandikbo had never known American football growing up in Jayapura, Papua – the poorest province in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy whose revenue is largely fuelled by forestry, agriculture, fishing and mining.

So when he travelled to Maine, United States in 2016 on a government scholarship to study at the elite Foxcroft Academy, the likely path, in terms of sports, was to do as other foreign students on the school’s residential programme do and play soccer.

Sekton, though, chose a different path – one that took him on an incredible two-year gridiron journey that inspired awe in his teammates, his coach and other coaches in his high school league.

So much so, that he was picked as an all-conference linebacker after helping Foxcroft win their second straight Class D North championship in the Little Ten Conference, losing their only game of the season in the state finals. He is the first overseas Asian to make an impact in American football in the league.

“He came to us two years ago and seemed very interested in football,” Foxcroft head coach Daniel White told the South China Morning Post. “We were intrigued and interested and got to talking to him.

“One day, one of the assistant coaches, who was also his teacher [Ryan Dankert] went up to him while he was playing basketball and said, ‘Why don’t you try out football?’.

“And that’s where it started. He was a very good athlete anyway but didn’t know the game. He had never played before an just watched in on TV. He started off as a junior and started really learning the game on the fly.

“His overall attitude helped him. He worked really hard to learn and his natural physical ability allowed him to learn faster than other kids did.

“It’s very unusual. I’ve been head coach for 10 years and very few kids from the residential programme play football. One foreigner did play but certainly not to the level [of Sekton]. He’s the best one we’ve had by a long stretch.”

Sekton made 42 tackles (30 solos) playing in the middle of Foxcroft’s defence during the autumn and rushed for 174 yards on 23 carries (7.6 yards a carry) as a running back, scoring three touchdowns.

“We didn’t know about American football,” Wandikbo told Ernie Clark of the Bangor Daily News. “I didn’t even know the rules until I joined the team here.

“I liked the physicality, the physical toughness about the game. I had to learn a lot. I think my junior year was not really good. I played a little on JV [junior varsity] and a little on varsity, and every practice they’d teach me what I did wrong because I’d always ask them.”

After his junior year, White informed Sekton that he would have a role to play the following season as a senior. That was all the incentive he needed. After returning from Papua, White said he saw a palpable improvement in Sekton’s physical abilities and an even stronger mental fortitude.

“After a promising first year, he was really excited at the opportunity to come back as a senior and contribute to our team and that’s exactly what he did,” White said.

“He knew a lot more about the game, he must have studied a lot of videos and when he came back he was an impact player from the beginning.

“At varsity level we had a 10-1 overall record and he was a piece of our success. It was amazing, to be a starter in the varsity team after playing for only 18 months. We’ve had kids playing since the fourth grade.”

White said he was pleased other coaches in the league acknowledged Sekton’s ability by naming him on the all-conference team and even his teammates heaped praise on the Indonesian.

Matthew Spooner, Foxcroft’s All-LTC senior quarterback, was quoted as saying: “It’s really kind of humbling. He just showed up two years ago and now he’s all-conference. I’ve been playing since I was 10.”

Sekton said he spent his holidays in Papua bulking up and studying the game by watching videos.

“After my junior season, coach came to me and said I was going to play next season so that drove me to get ready,” Sekton told Clark. “Mentally in the game I still needed to learn a lot, but the trust the coaches placed in me really motivated me.

“[Back home] I showed [my parents] some of my highlights and told them what I did, but I don’t think they understood it. They didn’t know anything about football. I just told them I needed to get to the weight room.”

Clark, an award-winning writer who covers, among others, high school sports in Maine, said he became interested in Sekton’s story after seeing his name on the Foxcroft roster and then watching him rise to all-conference level.

“I had noticed Sekton’s name on a Foxcroft football roster and knew that the school hosts a large number of international students each year but few have played football, so I was always curious about whether he would have an impact,” Clark said.

“It is very rare for an overseas student with no experience in American football to have as much of an impact as Sekton did in helping Foxcroft win the Maine Class D North championship after playing the sport for just 16 months.

“It’s a complicated sport to pick up quickly, and most international high schools students in Maine who play a fall [autumn] sport usually choose to play soccer.”

Once Sekton finishes high school, his prospects for continuing American football will depend on his commitment to the game and the opportunities presented to him at college level.

Coach White is confident he will thrive in whatever he chooses to do.

“His plan for the future is to stay in America and go to college,” White said. “I know he had two or three in mind and he wants to study theology. From there, I don’t know.

“I know he is going to run track in the spring and I’m sure sports will always be a part of his life.”