Thomas Jefferson hoping to prove speed kills
As a sophomore starting quarterback, Al Stewart did a lot of learning last year under fire.
That was never more evident than in a Week 3 loss at Curtis.
“Curtis beat him up and I wanted to see if he could bounce back,” Jefferson coach Gus Cyrus said. “Right there he showed me he could do it. He’s got a lot of heart because the hits he took against Curtis, most kids would have quit.”
Stewart not only didn’t quit, but he led the Orange Wave to a 7-2 regular season and a playoff berth in their first season in PSAL’s Championship Division. With Stewart, who threw for 1,127 yards and seven touchdowns, and much of the offense back, expectations are raised for Jefferson this year.
“Are we going to win it all? I can’t say,” Cyrus said. “I’m not Rex Ryan and put myself out there to look stupid. I’ll just say we’re going to have a good season and we’re looking better than last season.”
While receiver Mark Thomas, the first Jefferson player to compete in the annual Empire Challenge, graduated, the Orange Wave returns a bevy of offensive weapons, including running back Michael Abanikanda as well as receivers Will Noble, Dajon Dixon and Neville Alexander.
Replacing Thomas is younger brother Kendall (Speedy) Thomas, a transfer from Xaverian.
“We’ve got the best four receivers in the city who can turn any play into a touchdown and an excellent running back, you can’t ask for any more,” Cyrus said. “We’ve got 30 seniors. That tells a lot about us.”
And in Stewart, Jefferson has a confident, savvy veteran quarterback.
“This should be a good year for me,” Stewart said. “Last year was just a work in progress. I got better, can read the defense better. I should be a smarter quarterback.”
“He’s not frightened anymore,” added Noble. “Sophomore year he was kind of shaken up, but now he’s doing his thing.”
Cyrus is confident the offense will score at will. His biggest concern, though, is on the other side of the ball.
“We just gave up too many points last year, and that’s one thing we’re trying to change this year – the defense,” he said. “Our offense can score, but we can’t win a game 40-38. I can’t sleep at night seeing a score like that.”
Cyrus has charged new defensive coordinator Amaree Jenkins with reworking the defense, cutting down on missed tackles. Leading the way defensively is returning standout cornerback Kharif Pryor.
“He shuts everybody down,” Cyrus said. “We call him lockdown, but we’ll see September 9 against Tottenville. [Syracuse-bound Alvin Cornelius] is supposed to be the best receiver in the city. We’ll see, but we’re putting [Pryor] on him.”
Indeed, the Orange Wave’s first test is a more like a midterm – Friday Night Lights in Huguenot against the favorite to win the PSAL title.
“That’s a huge test right there.” Pryor said. “We win this game, the whole PSAL’s eyes are going to be open and notice that we mean business.”
Added Dixon: “We’re looking forward to it because we like playing in big games.”
Be sure to check out MSGVaristy.com tomorrow for a look at the No. 9 team in our NYC preseason football rankings.
Contact Dylan Butler at email@example.com
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