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Coach Darnell Grant's Shabazz squad reached the North 2, Group 1 playoff final last December before losing a close contest to Hoboken at Kean. (Photo by Doug Allen)
Weequahic's coaching staff is not thrilled about being in an SEC-Liberty Division with Group 5 and Group 4 schools. (Photo by Glenn Kross- glennkrossphotography.com)
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Is Weequahic, a Group 1, also being persecuted in a sense as it is now among two Group 5 schools (Columbia and Livingston) among other larger schools alongside the Indians in the SEC’s second-best division?
As far as Weequahic coach Brian Logan sees it, his Indians are in no position to be playing such larger schools as they will face as a Group 1 in the SEC’s second-best division.
“Why are we, with a population of 440 kids, playing schools with 2000 or 3000 students?” asks the coach of the Brick City small-school powerhouse that went 11-1 last fall, losing in the Central, Group 2 final to Rumson. “It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s like the lightweights vs. the heavyweights in boxing, and with all the talk these days about concussions and other injuries in football, I just don’t get it.”
Regardless of its coach’s rather strong sentiments, Weequahic is indeed ensconced in the SEC-Liberty with Group 5’s Columbia and Livingston along with Group 4 Irvington, Group 3 Nutley and Group 2 Caldwell. And, despite graduating statewide Defensive Player of the Year Sidney Gopre (Rutgers signee headed to prep school), the team returns enough talent to be a supreme factor both in the division and in North 2, Group 1 where it is back to this year after two straight season in the Central, Group 2 final.
Al-Kadair Ports, a Rutgers commit at cornerback, and an all-out burner who can play running back or wide receiver, and returns kicks and punts with the best of them, is a definite player to watch in the county this fall. Look for either Qua’D Cheatham or Tymen Sampson to emerge at quarterback for the Indians and replace graduated standout Kedar Clarke. Two more running backs to watch in addition to Ports are Carl Watson and Paul Drayton.
The line is spearheaded by 4-year starter Tysheem Perry, a powerfully-built (5-9, 220) defensive tackle.
Inexperience may be a concern since there are only seven seniors on the roster.
The ‘One Newark’ open enrollment plan is creating plenty of confusion for schools such as West Side, which now has students from Newark Vocational and an area charter school sending students to the building on South Orange Avenue.
How much those students can help the Roughriders in football remains to be seen.
“All I know is the budget cuts that have occurred with all the changes have really hurt West Side football,” said Halim McNeil, the Sideline Chatter Essex County coach of the year in 2013 after guiding the Roughriders to a 7-3 record that included a playoff berth. “We have no weight room, they’ve cut two of my assistants and we don’t anticipate getting any players from the two schools now sending us students.
“It’s just a situation we have to deal with, but my kids continue to persevere and we will come ready to play every weekend I can promise you that.”
Ahmed Jones, a fullback-inside linebacker, D’Ron Marsette, a wide receiver-cornerback; Daniel Brown, a running back-safety, Emmuel Hartburg, a running back-linebacker and Abraham Assante and Jamaal Walker, a pair of strong guard-defensive end types, lead the way as far as the 2014 talent pool for West Side, which will rely on a first-year QB in senior Desean Gilbert.
Coach Julius Montford is hoping that his Newark Central Blue Devils will fare better in the SEC’s fourth division where the prospects of a winning season are certainly appearing more in the offing than in the 3-6 campaign last fall in the Colonial.
“The change in schedules should make it a little more favorable for us,” said Montford, a former Weequahic standout player and assistant coach with Al-Tarik White. “Last year we played like five playoff teams and it was tough with a squad that was still trying to find its way.”
Emmanuel Christian, a massive (6-4, 265) tackle with a 4.2 GPA is drawing interest from Rutgers. He’ll anchor the Central line along with center-DT Aldeen McKinnis and sophomore prospect Nazeer Grier (T-LB).
The Blue Devils’ leading rusher Dewan Johnson (1,100 yards) returns to lead the ground attack, while slot receiver Raheem Williams and quarterback Naji Ahmad are other skill position players to watch.
Barringer’s increase in student enrollment with the ‘One Newark’ plan does not appear to increase the football numbers, but the Blue Bears are now in North 1, Group 5 as coach Ronly London guides his team.
The biggest addition for Barringer is exciting junior QB Shamier White, who has a strong arm and projects as one of the top, young signal callers in the SEC. He also happens to be the cousin of former East Orange and Montclair QB Quadeer Pendleton.
Alterek Williams and Victor “Rhino” Rivera are sold D-linemen being looked at by the bigger colleges, while sophomore Kareem Stewart is an up-and-coming performer at cornerback.
“We’re excited about our possibilities with Shamier White at quarterback and some veteran linemen in front of him,” said London, a former standout at Clifford Scott who came over last year to the Brick City after serving as an assistant on Marion Bell’s staff at East Orange. “We have a number of younger players we feel will step up and we’re going to be very competitive in our division.”
With back-to-back 0-9 seasons and a current 24-game losing streak, NewarkEast Side is looking for much better days ahead this season a number of veteran players on hand.
“We’re confident about a much better season with the kids we have returning and I think installing a new offense (the spread) will also help,” said coach Ricky Scotten. “We have a good group that now has the benefit of experience under its collective belts, and that’s always a good thing in football.”
Schuaib Ismail, a running-back safety, has the speed and moves to help make the ground game be productive. He’s joined in the backfield by a promising and quick sophomore tailback Rahmid Frye and senior quarterback Wyder Miller.
The line is spearheaded by a pair of 4-year starters in tight end-middle linebacker A.J. Monteiro and guard-nose tackle William Jones.
“Our part of Newark (Ironbound) has been known as ‘Soccer Town,’ and we even practice on a soccer field, but things are starting to change at East Side and football is being taken more to heart each and every day,” said Scotten. “We definitely expect to win some games this season with this group.”
Rutgers commit Al-Kadair Ports (1) is a breakaway threat for Weequahic as Indians look to traverse SEC-Liberty this fall. (Photo by Glenn Kross-glennkrossphotography.com)
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