Both in fine form, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws and their rookie winger Rico Andes are targeting glory come Season 78’s end. FEU had bucked a slow start by winning six straight games to take them from fifth to first in the standings. On their way there, the Tamaraws were helped by a newcomer, Andes, who has been supplying the most goals for them thus far.
After losing two in a row against the De La Salle University and University of Santo Tomas early in the season, the Tamaraws appeared to be in trouble. They were outside of the top four and were looking for answers to their slow start to Season 78. Their fortunes then began to change just before the first round ended, when they vanquished the University of the East and Adamson University to get themselves going for the second round. During the tumultuous period that saw them only win one, draw two, and lose two, Andes admitted that the team had been facing problems.
“Maraming problema, mga error namin pinag-usapan. Nag open forum kami para malaman kung ano yung mali namin. Tinuro ni Master Kim kung ano yung mali namin. Tapos nai-aapply na namin [‘yung mga tinuturo niya] kaya mas nagiging maganda ‘yung resulta ngayon,” he shared. Picking up the pieces with routine wins over the league’s bottom two, they had been eager to make amends by coming up stronger in the second round.
For them to do that, they needed to win both their games against La Salle and UST, suitably their first two games in the second round — and so they did, as Andes’ goal decided the game between the Tamaraws and the Green Archers, followed by a satisfying 4-0 win over the Growling Tigers. For Andes, those were important results, as they were able to show to everyone how much they have improved in such a brief period. “Naging daan yung mga talo namin noong first round kasi nalaman namin kung anong mga mistake namin. Yung mga mali namin naiayos na,” Andes said.
By accomplishing a pair of revenge triumphs, the Tamaraws now have springs in their steps. Currently, they are in first place, two points clear of another resurgent team, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons. Aware that the job is not yet done, Andes thinks the team should only focus on their target. “May plano kami na tatapusin namin ‘yung second round na kami ang nasa top,” Andes identified.
Meanwhile, on a personal note, the rookie, who is a product of FEU-Diliman’s outstanding high school program, admits that his accomplishments so far are reflective of his increasing trust in his abilities. “Tumataas na talaga yung confidence ko. Pagkareceive ko ng bola, nasa isip ko talaga yung goal. Kung hindi talaga kaya, ipapasa na lang sa iba,” Andes assessed. His contributions look good enough for him to be considered a candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, yet Andes is not totally keen on winning anything but a gold medal and a championship for his team. “Kung ano talaga ‘yung ibibigay sa akin, ‘yun na. Hindi ako nag-eexpect. Alam ko na malayo pa ako.”
As his team top the table with three games left, Andes knows that they are not yet out of the woods. They still have three playoff contenders standing on their way to their goal: UP, the National University Bulldogs and the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles. Games against NU and UP in the first round ended in draws, while the Tamaraws took advantage of an Ateneo side that looked far worse than they are at the moment.
The good thing for FEU and Andes is that the rookie believes that they aren’t in their best form yet. “May mas hihigit pa kami. Ipapakita talaga namin kung ano yung totoong FEU,” Andes claimed. With confidence running high, the Tamaraws now look like the team many thought they were before Season 78 started. At the moment, it seems like only they can cause their own downfall, as the dangerous Tamaraws set their sights on a third straight year at the zenith of UAAP Men’s Football.