Fort Hamilton seniors Marvin Centeno, Robert Thomas, Tyrone Raymond and Mensur Ibric have waited four years for this moment, and now, it is upon them.
Finally, they are the ones in charge of a talented Tigers squad, and with so many young teammates in the fold, they’ll be looked upon to lead.
Gone are last December’s heroes, from Ivan Foy and Brandon Reddish to Wesley Sumpter, Rasheem Stroud and Kevon Foster, guys who led the Tigers to their third city championship in six seasons.
“All our seniors are excited for this season,” second-year Fort Hamilton coach Danny Perez said. “They want to end their careers on a high note.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
Fort Hamilton is inexperienced for the first time in four years — not coincidentally the last time it dropped a regular-season contest, a run that now stands at 32 consecutive victories. Just four starters return on each side of the ball, led by Centeno, the strong-armed quarterback in his fourth year on the varsity squad.
“Having a senior quarterback like Marvin, that’s a big strength,” Perez said. “He’s gonna get us in the right spots. We’re gonna lay it on his shoulders.”
He backed up Frank Laino for two years and missed three games last year with a sprained knee. But he proved his worth in the playoffs, particularly the title game when he threw the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion.
“It feels great to be in charge of the offense; I have to keep everybody focused,” he said. “I learned a lot from Frank, [former center] Nick Fiorito, [former quarterback] Jeff Legree about when your time comes, you need to take charge, be a leader, get everybody motivated.”
With weapons such as dynamic 6-foot junior Travon Reid-Segure, 6-foot-4 junior wide receiver Thaddeus Stroud (Rasheem’s cousin) and the all-senior backfield of the shifty Raymond and powerful Thomas, he has plenty of help.
Perez described the 5-foot-8, 230-pound Thomas as the “defense’s soul” at middle linebacker while Reid-Segure and Stroud will anchor what could be a dynamic secondary. Ibric and 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior Armani Garrick will be integral on both lines, Ibric the only returning starter on the offensive side.
So far, Perez has found himself needing to give more basic instruction than past years. Just three days into the season, he already lost his voice. Yet more comfortable in his skin in his second year at the helm, Perez went about his work Wednesday with a smile, unbothered with the job ahead of him as Fort Hamilton heads to camp Thursday morning.
“This is starting over,” Perez said.
This current group of Tigers needs to be molded, he said, but the talent to make another city title run is there. Thomas, the fullback and middle linebacker, sees the possibilities, but he also has noticed what’s lacking.
“We have to learn how to finish,” he said. “We’ll have good practices, but we don’t finish them.”
That, the senior leader said, could come back to bite the Tigers once the season rolls around.
“Once we learn how to finish,” he said, “we’ll be a great team.”