Kendall “Speedy” Thomas could hardly contain himself. The Thomas Jefferson junior was rattling off names a mile-a-minute.
Dajon Dixon. Will Noble. Neville Alexander. Michael Abanikanda. The Orange Wave has so many electric athletes on offense. But he left out himself — arguably the fastest player in the city.
“There’s talent all around and then we got Al,” Thomas said of quarterback Al Stewart. “He puts the ball right there — perfect.”
To say there is excitement in East New York this year would be an understatement. Last year, Jefferson stormed into the PSAL City Championship division, going 7-2 and earning the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. But the Orange Wave were upset in the first round by Brooklyn Tech, a fate that — with the core team back tied together neatly by newcomer Thomas — would be unacceptable this season.
“The goal is the championship,” coach Gus Cyrus said before pausing. “But we’re taking it one game at a time.”
That’s good mindset, because right off the bat Jefferson meets Tottenville, probably the best team in the city on paper, under the lights on Staten Island next Friday. Cyrus fancies Thomas as his not-so-secret weapon. The former Xaverian star has not played a high school game since last December when he was expelled from the Bay Ridge school.
“We just gotta wait and see what happens Friday night when the lights go on,” Cyrus said with a smile.
Thomas runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and is a sight to see in the open field. Boys & Girls assistant coach Clive Harding said after a scrimmage with Jefferson on Thursday that there hasn’t been a player in the PSAL quite like him in a long time. In his varsity debut last year at Xaverian against St. Peter’s, the 5-foot-9 standout scored on a 49-yard punt return and an 86-yard kickoff return — and followed that up with six catches for 102 yards at Chaminade.
Cyrus says he intends to use his offensive weapon in any situation.
“Anywhere we need him,” he said. “When you have a guy like that, you need to put the ball in his hands.”
The coach might need some more footballs, because the offense, like Thomas said, is stacked with weapons. Dixon had five touchdowns — three receiving, two running — last year alongside star receiver Mark Thomas, Kendall’s brother who now plays at Nassau Community College. Noble and Alexander are also deep threats who saw time last year.
Abanikanda, though, only played in six games in 2010. He blew up this summer, though, showing off 4.5 40-yard dash speed and power. The senior is likely to be Jefferson’s workhorse back.
“Watch out for him,” Cyrus said. “He’s gonna be fun to watch. He’s gonna get the ball.”
Jefferson is going to need offensive linemen Javon Lewis and Ebenezer Ogundeko to open up holes for all that talent and give Stewart the time to find all those receivers. On defense, many of those skill players will play both ways and Cyrus is excited about cornerback and safety Kharif Pryor. Thomas thinks the Orange Wave will have a lockdown secondary.
But make no mistake, offense is going to be this team’s strength — it has the potential to be the most explosive unit in the league.
“It’s going to be very dangerous — points, points, points,” Stewart said with a smile. “You got everybody keying on Speedy, but we got three other great receivers.”