By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Grand Street Campus is generally known as a good baseball school, but over the years its football program hasn't gotten much notoriety. That changed this season though, as the Wolves went from 1-7 a year ago to 6-3 this season with their first playoff appearance in quite some time.
The Wolves improved as the season went on, finishing the regular season with an impressive 30-0 win over a talented New Utrecht team before falling in an overtime playoff game to a tough Boys and Girls team in the first round. After those two games, Grand Street won’t be satisfied by just making the playoffs next year.
“Our school has a bright future and we definitely made a statement here to show that,” said quarterback Justin White. “It was a big season going from 1-7 to 6-3 and to make it to the playoffs. It's just rough to come up short.
“This is just motivation to keep working hard though. We’re going to fix some of the mistakes we made because we were inexperienced and next year we’re thinking about Yankee Stadium. Yankee Stadium, that’s all I’m thinking about.”
White, a junior this season, is probably the biggest reason anybody should be optimistic about Grand Street’s chances next year. White is pass-first quarterback that, while capable of running, he ran for 250 yards and five touchdowns, led the PSAL with 2,198 passing yards. That’s 704 more yards than Lincoln’s Javon Moore.
“Nobody talks about him, but he's no doubt the best quarterback in the city right now, not next year, right now,” Grand Street coach Bruce Eugene said. “He's the only pure passer there is. He makes mistakes in games, but at the end of the day I'll ride or die with Justin White any day of the week.”
Usually, high school teams that have quarterbacks that pass so much do it out of necessity because they don’t have the running game to back them up. That isn’t true with Grand Street Campus as they have Rahmel Ashby, who ran for 763 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore.
“He's a grown man in a young man's body,” Eugene said. “He has the heart of a champion, he’s smart and he’s only going to get better as his body matures. I love my running back.”
Of course, White didn’t just throw for over 2,000 yards with nobody to throw to. His best receivers this season were seniors Kareem Bacchus and Lynell Robinson, who combined for over 1,300 receiving yards. They will be gone next year, but Eugene is already talking up his next crop of receivers.
“It hurts to lose those two guys, but we have plenty of talent coming up behind them,” Eugene boasted. “Taysir Mack, a sophomore receiver, has already shown that he can play at the top level. Then we have Kimani Talbot, who will be a senior next year and will see plenty of playing time. There is also Dennis Peterson, who was with the JV team this year, but can run and catch and will be with the varsity team full time next year.“
The Wolves started off this season slowly with losses to Flushing and Kennedy in the first three weeks. However, they won five of their final six games and their one loss, to Fort Hamilton, came only after they allowed two fourth quarter kickoff returns for touchdowns, something they feel was a bit of a fluke. The difference in their playoff loss was a last-minute fumble. They weren’t far off from putting things together this year and next year they could be downright dangerous.
“We're young at the key positions -- quarterback, running back and everything else,” Eugene said. “We even have a mixture of younger and older kids that will be back next year.
Our expectations for next year are already very high. I expect that we’ll be one of the top teams competing to play at Yankee Stadium.”