Thomas Jefferson is one of the biggest stories of the season in PSAL football. The Orange Wave won four of their first five games, beating notable teams like Sheepshead Bay and Flushing. Still, the coaching staff and players don’t feel like they’ve gotten their due in their inaugural season in the City Championship division.
Jefferson took another stride toward proving wrong the critics and naysayers with a 28-0 drubbing of No. 9 Port Richmond on Saturday afternoon at Moe Finkelstein Athletic Complex in East New York. The Red Raiders are just two seasons removed from winning the PSAL city title.
“All our games were big wins, but I think this was the biggest,” star senior wide receiver Mark Thomas said.
If Jefferson (5-1) didn’t just get on the map with a victory, the way the Orange Wave won was all the more impressive. They completely dominated the line of scrimmage from start to finish.
Facing 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter, quarterback Al Stewart lowered his head and his blockers moved him 4 yards for the first down. In the second quarter, Titus Goode Jr. carried and the offensive line moved the pile for almost all of his 17-yard gain. That set up a fake end around from Javon Lewis to Thomas for a 12-yard touchdown that gave Jefferson a 14-0 lead with 2:58 left in the half.
“Our coaches told us their line was weak and to bully them,” said senior running back Rahim Salahuddin, who rushed for a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter and returned a Ricky Cardenas interception 98 yards to the house as time expired in the game.
Trailing by two touchdowns near the end of the first half, Port Richmond (3-3) put together its best drive of the game up to that point. But a bad snap got behind Cardenas at the Jefferson 31 and Orange Wave recovered.
“Offensively, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Red Raiders coach Lou Vesce said, whose team has now lost two straight. “We’re in the red zone and we’re not scoring. I don’t think we’re good enough to overcome those types of things.”
Jefferson’s defense held nicely on another long Port Richmond drive at the end of the third quarter. The Red Raiders got to the 12-yard line, but Orange Wave senior linebacker Michael Hooks got pressure on Cardenas, forcing an incomplete pass.
Thomas would extend the lead a few minutes later with a 46-yard touchdown and William Noble took in the 2-point conversion to give Jefferson a 22-0 lead. Thomas finished with 77 yards on six carries and caught just the one touchdown pass. The Orange Wave kept the ball on the ground with winds gusting up to 40 mph as Salahuddin had 56 yards on 16 carries.
“I told the kids, the wind is blowing, we’re gonna turn this into a track meet,” Jefferson assistant coach Gus Cyrus said. “And I don’t think anyone’s faster than our kids, so we made it into a track meet.”
Few teams have had this much success so quickly in their first season as a 5, that’s for sure. Cyrus, though, doesn’t want to hear about how his team was a 3 last year. After Saturday, it should be an afterthought anyway.
“Every week we’re shocking somebody,” Cyrus said. “Every week, it’s another shock.”