Steve Basile was asked to name his stars, the players that might strike fear into the rest of the city. The Midwood football coach paused.
“This year’s players, unlike others, they’re all pretty even,” he eventually said.
Basile wasn’t complaining, either. Unlike previous seasons, fatigue won’t be a problem for the Hornets — they have just three players (lineman Al Koziol III, running back/free safety Jonathan Scott, and defensive end/wide receiver Kyle Oliver) — going both ways. When the offense gets off the field and is replaced by the defense, seven fresh players will take the field.
“It’s a benefit when you have a team like this,” Basile said.
The coach, of course, wouldn’t mind to have a few all-city talents, though he thinks quarterback Dominic Clarke possesses All-Brooklyn ability and all-city toughness. Clarke will be of paramount importance this year with the graduation of standout tailback Donovan Edwards and the team’s starting wide receivers.
Clarke’s throwing has improved, but the wiry-strong 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior’s forte is running the ball. Midwood runs an assortment of draw plays to create room for Clarke out of their Delaware Winged-T system.
“He’s developing into what we think is a pretty good quarterback,” Basile said. “He came back in good shape and knows the offense in and out.”
“I have more responsibility and pressure on me, but I’m here to help my team,” Clarke added. “It’s part of a quarterback’s job, so it doesn’t really matter.”
More valuable than his athletic gifts, however, are the intangible qualities Clarke brings to the huddle. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks Basile has had in his 10 years coaching Midwood. He arrives early to practice, leaves late and never skips a play.
“I just have a love for the game,” he said. “I work as hard as I can.”
Offensively, Midwood will need Clarke to have a stellar season if it is to rack up points. The Hornets will use Scott in the backfield along with fullback Nick Perpignan, who led the JV in rushing with 541 yards and six touchdowns last year, and the 6-foot-4 Oliver will be the team’s top wide receiver.
The new skill position players will have the benefit of working with an experienced offensive line, which includes Koziol, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound force, and 5-foot-9, 255-pound senior Shawn Perkiss.
Basile is far less concerned with his defense, which held four opponents to single digits last season. It returns five starters, such as Oliver, a defensive end who recorded five sacks last year and has heard from Syracuse and Rutgers, and 5-foot-11, 300-pound defensive tackle Dan Georges. Scott has replaced Edwards at free safety, and thus far has taken on the reigns as the unit’s leader. The defense’s strength is at linebacker, where Milton Rios and Warren Barrett lead a deep and talented group.
Powerhouse programs such as Fort Hamilton and Sheepshead Bay draw much of the attention when it comes to Brooklyn football, but Midwood has proven to be one of the more consistent programs, reaching the playoffs six of the last seven years.
Getting there again won’t be so easy. Not with a schedule that includes aspiring championship contenders Lincoln and DeWitt Clinton and playoff teams a year ago: New Utrecht, Susan Wagner, Flushing, and Port Richmond. One of Basile’s assistants recently joked they must have unknowingly angered the PSAL.
“We got our work cut out for us,” Basile said. “But I don’t worry about our schedule. Our schedule is our schedule.”
It hasn’t fazed his players.
“We take pride in [making the playoffs], but the last few years we’ve been out in the first round,” Clarke said. “We’re trying to get further than that.”