Derby esports celebrated the second-ever college signing on May 18. Deven Anderson officially signed his letter of intent to Pratt Community College to join the Beaver esports program. The DHS esports team has gained a lot of traction in its second full year of existence and is starting to establish itself as a team rather than a club.
“The Derby esports team is gaining a lot of momentum,” Anderson said. “The transformation from club to team and getting a designated gaming lab with reliable equipment has helped change the approach of the program.”
Anderson was a key piece of the squad that took first in the Midwest region and seventh in the nation in Apex Legends this last season. Apex Legends is a battle-royale, first-person shooter video game where teams of three-player squads compete to be the last team standing.
Joining the Apex Legends squad as a full-time player was not on Anderson’s mind at the start of the season. The leader of a similar game, Overwatch, stepped up when there was an open chair on the Apex squad. The chemistry between Anderson, Ethan Fritz and Jovany Guzman clicked instantly, and the trio started to develop key roles in the game.
The crew started to develop a strategy for success, and each player grew into distinct roles. The team ran a strategy using various types of smokescreens to disrupt the opponent’s ability to see incoming attacks.
As the most experienced player on the team, Fritz took the lead for the team and tended to be the more aggressive player. Anderson was in the middle helping push attacks, while Guzman played the crucial support, more conservative player role.
Unlike its KSHSAA-sanctioned counterparts, esports practice is a little more individualized, and players can practice at their own pace just by logging hours in the game from home. Due to conflicting schedules, the team rarely has the time to play together as practice. Most of the time, the three would play a warm-up game together on the day of the matches.
“Whenever we couldn’t practice together, we would just play the game at home to get the basic aspects like playing the game for skill,” Anderson said. “It is way better than having to show up in person. Like for band practice, you have to be somewhere at 8 a.m.; instead, I can wake up at 8 a.m. in my pajamas and play video games.”
During the season, the team played nearly every Thursday, but it was a different structure than other esports games. Points were calculated by taking the trio’s best four rounds in a span of two hours. The team played random opponents, and every round was a fresh start to get a higher point total based on team placement and kill totals.
The trio was playing well heading into the postseason and won the Midwest regional, comprised of several schools from various states. The team continued the momentum taking seventh in the nation.
“The fact that they got first in the region in Apex Legends was a big deal,” head coach Caitlin Hendrix said. “When looking at multiple states and the level of talent, it is really neat.”
The entire Derby esports team found success this season, led by the Apex Legends team, with each team making significant improvements at the end of the year. There is some momentum building throughout the team. Hendrix hopes to continue the success of the team and give her players more opportunities to receive scholarships to colleges as the esports community works to make it a sanctioned KSHSAA activity.
“I think it has been really neat to see the mindset of our players change,” Hendrix said. “It was [first] seen as just a club and showing up and playing video games to them [now] realizing it is a sport.. They now see they can get scholarships and go further than just playing video games. It has been cool seeing it morph from a club to a sport. I am excited to offer more opportunities with scholarships from multiple colleges and for it to be started to be considered as a sport.”