Grady is the only team that went winless last year in the PSAL City Championship division yet remained up at the highest level. There’s good reason for that, according to coach Andrew Jashyn.
The Falcons’ struggles weren’t due to physical limitations, but off-the-court character issues.
“We’ve had enough Tarzans playing like Janes,” he said. “We need Tarzans to play like Tarzans.”
Just by hearing the pitch of Jashyn’s voice, you can tell that Grady, which is only going into its third season as a 5, could be in for an improved season. The Falcons return talent and, more importantly, it seems like there is more chemistry now after a few days of practice than there was all of last season.
“I think it’s all starting to come together,” Jashyn said. “Everybody has an ownership of the team — coaches and players. Grady has always had a winning tradition of football. We have to get that winning tradition back. We need a lot of redemption.”
The biggest tangible difference could be at the most glamorous position: quarterback. Sophomore newcomer Dewan Hyman could potentially push junior Brent Rachel for the role of first-string signal-caller.
“Hopefully, we’ll throw the ball a little bit better,” Jashyn said. … “We don’t know yet. We gotta put [Hyman] in the fire.”
Rachel will be on the field regardless at running back and whoever is under center will have the luxury of throwing to a pair of skilled wide receivers — Kevon Primus and Paul Hunter. An experienced offensive line, with three returners, should allow for a more diverse offense. That group is led by senior Dale Nathaniel, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound wunderkind that Jashysn says is being under-recruited because of Grady’s poor performance last year.
“Once we start banging down some doors this year, we’ll start to really make a stink,” the coach said. “I noticed when we were winning people were coming around. … I can’t see him not going somewhere big if he plays as well as we’re expecting.”
The defense will also be anchored by another Division I hopeful. Senior defensive end Tyree Darwin (6-2, 215), who has performed very well on the camp circuit, is expected to be a force alongside Nathaniel and two-way lineman Christion Doig and tackle Stanley Dorvil.
“His goal is all-city and leading the league in sacks,” Jashyn said of Darwin.
Rachel is also the team’s best linebacker and the rest of the corps is up in the air until hitting is allowed in practice beginning Friday. Primus will be Grady’s starting free safety and junior Dave Antoine has high expectations as the team’s top cornerback.
Then again, the whole team has high expectations as per Jashyn. He says he has restructured the program from the ground up. Last year, there was just one JV coach and the development of players wasn’t there. Now there are four coaches on the junior varsity and Jashyn expects the future to be bright — starting with 2010.
“We’re really optimistic,” he said. “Last year, our problem was our character. We were in every game. There was only two games that we got our ass kicked. This year everybody is more positive. I haven’t yelled this year yet. Everyone is like, ‘Yes, Coach!’”