DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Sekton Wandikbo could not have imagined being named an all-conference linebacker even two years ago.
For the Foxcroft Academy senior, football was a different game he was playing a world away back then.
What Americans call soccer was Wandikbo’s sport of choice in his native Indonesia, a Southeast Asian nation of nearly 250 million people made up of thousands of volcanic islands where even Tom Brady is a virtual unknown.
“We didn’t know about American football,” Wandikbo said. “I didn’t even know the rules until I joined the team here.”
He learned quickly. Barely 16 months after participating in his first American football practice, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Wandikbo was selected to the All-Little Ten Conference second team after helping Foxcroft win its second straight Class D North championship.
“I was pleased the coaches around the league acknowledged that this kid is a player,” Foxcroft head coach Danny White said. “He made a lot of nice plays against them so I think it was a fairly comfortable decision for them to make.”
Wandikbo made 42 tackles (30 solos) while anchoring the middle of the Foxcroft defense this fall. At running back, he also rushed for 174 yards on 23 carries (7.6 yards per attempt) and scored three touchdowns.
“It’s really kind of humbling,” said Matthew Spooner, Foxcroft’s All-LTC senior quarterback. “He just showed up two years ago and now he’s all-conference. I’ve been playing since I was 10.”
A government scholarship enabled the oldest of Dorman and Marthasila Wandikbo’s four children to come to America from his hometown of Jayapura, a city of 250,000 that is the capital and largest city of the Indonesian province of Papua.
While he arrived at Foxcroft too late to join the Ponies’ 2016 football team, it was soon enough for him to start watching NFL games on television.
“I liked the physicality, the physical toughness about the game,” said Wandibko, one of approximately 80 boarding students attending Foxcroft this academic year.
It wasn’t long before he was introduced to the idea of actually playing the sport.
“When I was playing basketball in the gym that winter [FA assistant football coach] Ryan Dankert asked me if I wanted to try football, and I thought it was a good opportunity,” he said.
Wandikbo began preseason practices in August 2017. While he saw some varsity duty on defense — he played in the first football game he ever saw in person — much of his work initially came at the junior varsity level.
“I had to learn a lot,” he said. “I think my junior year was not really good. I played a little on JV and a little on varsity, and every practice they’d teach me what I did wrong because I’d always ask them.”
While the early stages of Wandikbo’s football education may have produced some personal frustration, an end-of-season conversation when White told him he could play a much bigger role as a senior.
That spurred his offseason dedication to the game.
“We all knew right away that Sekton had the physical tools to play football at the high school level,” White said. “It was a matter of how long was it going to take him to understand the game.”
Wandikbo began lifting weights as well as watching as many football games and videos as possible.
“I paid attention to what the running backs and linebackers were doing,” said Wandikbo, who took particular notice of the work done by of former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.
“After my junior season, coach came to me and said I was going to play next season so that drove me to get ready,” Wandikbo said. “Mentally in the game I still needed to learn a lot, but the trust the coaches placed in me really motivated me.”
Wandikbo returned home last summer for the first time in two years and attempted to share his football experiences with his family.
“I showed them some of my highlights and told them what I did, but I don’t think they understood it,” he said. “They didn’t know anything about football. I just told them I needed to get to the weight room.”
Wandikbo returned to Foxcroft just in time for the start of preseason practices this fall, and White’s confidence was reinforced by what he saw.
“There was a different feel about Sekton,” White said. “We definitely saw that he was a little more physical and his understanding of the game had improved, so he had clearly put some time in watching YouTube or whatever he could and you could see he was more comfortable on a football field.”
Wandikbo was so comfortable that he became an important presence for the Ponies — largely as a blocker on offense and in the heart of the defense from his starting middle linebacker slot.
“We could count on Sekton to be our guy to stay in the middle, he was consistent,” White said.
Wandikbo’s efforts work helped Foxcroft go undefeated through the regular season and Class D North playoffs, leading to his all-conference selection by LTC coaches.
“To come in as a high school junior in a foreign country and play a sport you’ve only seen maybe on TV or YouTube, it’s a credit to his natural physical ability,” White said. “But he also developed a passion and love for football that pushed him to want to improve, and a passion and love for his teammates and our football program so that he wanted to make a mark on it.”
Wandikbo is testing his athletic interests this winter by joining Foxcroft’s varsity basketball team and he’ll return to the outdoor track program next spring.
He plans to attend college in the United States, and while that likely means the end of his brief football career, he’s grateful for his 16 months on the gridiron.
“I think it’s more about life,” Wandikbo said. “One big thing I really learned from football is that there’s no such thing as luck. Everything you get is what you work for.”