Jordan Paul kneeled at midfield as Campus Magnet defenders celebrated their victory around him. The strong-armed New Utrecht quarterback kicked the ball like a soccer player three times before slowly walking to his sideline.
He may as well have been kicking himself after the Utes defense held strong but the high-powered offense managed just a single touchdown in a demoralizing, 14-6 home loss, the Brooklyn school’s third straight, Friday afternoon.
“Very disappointing,” he said. “I think we should come into every game more prepared.”
Put Friday at the top of the list.
The day got off to an uneven start when Paul and five other teammates arrived for their pregame meeting at 2 p.m., an hour late. Paul finishes classes early on Friday, he said, but went to go get food and got back late.
He didn’t blame his subpar performance on his tardiness, although Paul could understand how it was a symbol for the loss.
“I was disappointed in myself because the team looks up to me,” he said. “It doesn’t set a good tone for the game.”
New Utrecht did move the ball well against the Bulldogs (3-1), as Devon John and Adeniran Adewole churned out 95 yards on the ground combined, but managed just Paul’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Chillious in three possessions into Campus Magnet territory.
The Queens school, considered one of the city’s elite, actually led 14-0 at halftime on a pair of Jimmy Potepa touchdowns – an 82-yard kickoff return 10 seconds into the matchup and a 42-yard spring off right tackle to the house in the second quarter.
New Utrecht hung around as its struggling defense kept it in the game. The Utes had possession, down a single score with 4:20 remaining, but went three-and-out, losing 10 yards. Balkan curiously called for two running plays before Paul was sacked on third down. The longtime coach said Campus Magnet (3-1) was preparing for the pass, as it had earlier on, which springs big runs.
“With our offense, we take what the defense gives us,” Balkan said. “They were giving us the run. … If we blocked it right, you’re gonna be writing down 20-yard gain, 20-yard gain.”
The offense, which put up 32 points in a season-opening win over New Dorp and 38 against Midwood, has hit the skids. It has produced only 22 points the last two weeks despite the presence of Paul, one of the city’s elite quarterbacks who is being recruited by Fordham, Richmond, Stony Brook and Norfolk State.
“We didn’t execute,” Balkan said. “We didn’t run the right routes, we didn’t block people.”
Paul’s numbers — 8-of-16 for 60 yards through the air and 40 more on the ground — weren’t necessarily poor. But he missed several passes he usually hits, particularly in the first half, and was worn down by the Campus Magnet defense. It stemmed from him uncharacteristically showing up late, Balkan said.
“When you’re not mentally prepared, you can’t play well,” the coach said.
Now, a season that began with such hope, of returning to the playoffs and possibly advancing, is at a crossroads. The Utes are 1-3, needing at least three wins in their last five games to even be in the postseason conversation. The schedule, which includes Erasmus Hall and Fort Hamilton, isn’t easy, although winless Madison is up next.
“We gotta start turning it around sometime,” Balkan said. “Next week is a good time.”