By Jerry Del Priore
After losing over twenty players to graduation in 2015, the Chiefs are leaning on last year’s junior varsity squad to step it up this season.
Though fielding a young, inexperienced team, head coach Kyle Allen is still thinking playoffs, hoping to build on Canarsie’s JV’s 2015 success as a number of players have moved up to its varsity ranks.
“We made great strides with them last year on JV. They went from being 0-10 as freshman to 7-3 as sophomores,” Allen recalled. “So, it’s constant progress, and they got bigger and stronger and more intellectual and cerebral as far as the game in concerned.
“This is not the type of team that I think is a long shot for the playoffs, by any means,” he added. “I think we have enough talent and enough size and ability to be able to compete on the level that we’re on. And I think we can muster up some wins.”
One of Allen’s main arduous tasks, however, is to develop the maturity of his young players as the season progresses.
“The immaturity level is a little scary because they’re so young,” Allen said. “So, I’m trying to get them to mature quicker than you usually expect because this is what we need to have to be successful.”
Allen is looking to running back Johnny Watson to provide the team with much needed leadership — something he saw in his athletic, budding star in training camp.
“It took a while for somebody to take the leadership role and start to reel everyone in,” Allen explained. “Eventually, Johnny Watson started to take that role and kind of bring the kids under his wing. I’m putting a lot of pressure on him this year to be that guy for us.”
Fortunately for Watson, he won’t have to shoulder the leadership responsibility alone.
“Our quarterback (Eric Andersen) has been taking that leadership role, too,” Allen said. “Last year, we had him at slot. He was the JV quarterback his freshman year. And he was the best fit for where we are trying to go, so we moved him back to quarterback. He’s taking on the responsibility like man, and he’s developed well. He had a really, really good offseason.”
Adding to the Chiefs’ offensive prowess is six-foot-five-inch sophomore receiver Adisa Isaac, who Allen said has, “shown flashes of being great in the preseason, so we’re going to count on him when the ball’s in the air.”
In addition, there’s senior speedster Akeem King, a track athlete who Allen believes has the potential to be a big offensive playmaker with the ball in his hands in open space.
On the defensive side, Allen spoke of weak-side linebacker Lamar McBeth, junior safety Jamel Cayard, and senior Romone Brown—all gifted players.
Up front, the offensive and defensive lines look solid, according to Allen, but lack of viable backups could spell trouble if injuries and academic ineligibility set in.
“Our first units are good; we just don’t have a lot depth,” the fifth-year coach said. “That’s always the problem around here (Canarsie Educational Campus), because it’s small population-wise.”
Canarsie kicks off the season on Staten Island at Port Richmond Saturday at noon.