When Eric Perlowitz took over the reigns for A.P. Randolph High School’s varsity football team in 2019, he was tasked with the responsibility of turning the program into a winner after putting up a 2-7 mark in the 2018-19 campaign.
Well, the Cougars posted an 8-1 record and appeared in a Cup Conference playoff game, which they lost, 34-14, to Stuyvesant, in the first round.
Nevertheless, it was a successful season, and Perlowitz had APR looking upward and onward.
But he said the Cougars still have to earn PSAL football respect, like a few other teams in the Cup Conference. And it would not be easy due to the school’s location in Lower West Harlem, which does not afford the room for their own area for game preparation and tilts.
“We are in the same boat with August Martian,” Perlowitz said as far as continuing to build a top gridiron program. “We started out at the same time and have something to prove.
“The biggest challenge, hands down, is lack of practice space,” he continued. “The fact that we go out there and compete and win is a credit to our program. We have Jacobs Schiff Playgrounds (on Amsterdam Ave.) nearby. The field is a decent in size, but we get a quarter of that.”
Perlowitz added that his boys often have to cope with people crisscrossing the area, and work around soccer teams from all over Manhattan playing games during their practices.
Even with the obstacles, Perlowitz said the Cougars have been able to improve each season.
The spring 2020-21 campaign saw APR go 7-2, and it faced two City Conference teams, the PSAL’s highest level squads, in which it lost both affairs.
Perlowitz believes all the team’s personal and athletic improvement can be credited to buying into the coaching system and doing what they are required to in the classroom.
“The first thing I did (that of spring 2019 when I took over) was look at report cards,” the Pleasantville, N.Y., native explained. “By the end of the spring, everyone was eligible for football. We had a magical season in 2019. The kids saw the change in culture and leadership. Kids started to see that we were good, and wanted to be a part of the team. Winning cures everything.”
As for his freshman players who started with Perlowitz when he was the Junior Varsity Coach, he said he has witnessed a transformation that is nothing short of miraculous.
“Some of the kids from their freshman year to senior year, it’s been night and day,” he exclaimed. “I believe football had a major part in it.”
Presently, there a few student-athletes who represent personal rebirth and positive change at the school, including senior Saul Medina-Taveras, a talented 6-foot-1, 185-pound running back/safety who picked up football as a freshman. In fact, Division III William Paterson has showed interest in him, per Perlowitz.
Medina-Taveras enjoyed an impressive tilt, rushing for a game-high 112 yards and a score on 15 carries in the Cougars’ 14-8 win over August Martin last Sunday at Franklin K. Lane High School field.
“Saul was a mischief in middle school,” Perlowitz recalled. “He signed himself up. He didn’t miss a single day of preseason. It was hot, and we practiced four hours a day. He really wanted to learn the game. He created himself into a versatile player by learning every position.
“He’s a fast, tough runner who doesn’t go down easy,” the former assistant coach at Westlake High School Football in Westchester continued. “Since he hasn’t played long, he is still in love with the game.”
Another success story is senior Kelvin Brito, a tailback/middle linebacker who is an excellent student. Brito is getting looks from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), an engineer school in Troy, N.Y., with a D III football program, according to his coach.
Brito ran for 86 yards on six touches and a TD, plus made nine tackles on defense last Sunday.
“Kelvin has done tremendously since I got him as a freshman,” Perlowitz said of Brito’s academic and athletic performance. “He is a true student-athlete.”
Next is Nate Nurse, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior quarterback who has shown flashes of greatness. Although he went 3-10 with 45 yards and interception on Sunday, Perlowitz is still high on him.
“He had an off day, but he had a tremendous spring,” he remarked. “The sky is the limit for him. He’ll get (college) looks. He throws the ball really well. He’s an underrated runner. There’s no doubt he’ll have a bright future. He hasn’t reached his full potential yet, but he’s very coachable.”
Also, Perlowitz mentioned James Denegall IV, a 5-foot-10, 250-pound senior offensive guard/nose guard who possesses size and potential for the next level.
As APR football continues to reach new heights, the school has rallied behind the program, and athletics in general.
“The reception from the faculty at the school is very supportive of the football team,” said Perlowitz, who is also the Athletic Director at APR. “It’s great. There even supportive of the athletic program on the whole.”
The Cougars travel to Brooklyn’s Grady in a non-league preseason affair Saturday at noon. APR opens their PSAL Cup Conference campaign on Saturday, September 18th at 12:00 p.m. against host Flushing High School at Flushing Memorial Field.
— Jerry Del Priore
(Photos: APR Head Football Eric Perlowitz).