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John Adams hoping to make waves in 2002

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It’s been a long time since John Adams has been associated with the borough’s football elite. And while the Spartans may be behind August Martin and Bayside — Queens’ only two teams with a power rating of 5 — a return to the playoffs is a distinct possibility for the steadily improving program.

There was a time when John Adams was the elite program in Queens. In 1987 the Spartans won their third city championship in the 1980s.

But playoff football was the furthest thing from head coach Jerry Weitzen’s mind two years ago, when the Spartans finished a disappointing 0-8. Last year there was renewed excitement in Ozone Park as Adams played its first home game in four years and the team finished 3-6.

Back for Weitzen is one of the borough’s top linesmen in 6-foot-8, 350-pound Michael Fladell, as well as senior halfback Tristan Leefoon, who ran for over 1,000 yards last year and senior quarterback Kyle Piccerrello, who threw for over 1,000 yards. Leading the defense is hard-hitting Robert Knight, a senior middle linebacker.

“The strength of our team this year should be our offense with Kyle throwing in our wide open offense,” Weitzen said. “We should be pretty tough. We could have a terrific turnaround season.”

August Martin laid claim to the title of borough’s best last year, finishing 7-4 before losing to Canarsie in the quarterfinals. The Falcons also defeated Bayside, 15-6 in the annual unofficial Queens championship game.

Martin lost several key players from last year, including TimesLedger All-Queens first team players Shaine Smith, one of the city’s top safeties, and linebacker/running back Trevor Shamblee, as well as running back/linebacker Anthony Pittman and offensive tackle/defensive end Nkosi Wiggins.

Quarterback Jason Boyce, 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman Joe “Biscuit” Ross and running back/linebacker Wayne Harris are the seniors who should lead what was for the most part a young and inexperienced group last year.

Also back is senior tight end Anthony McDonald, junior wide receiver Leon Grant, sophomore receiver Eugene Paulson and senior cornerback/running back Steve Henderson for Martin, whose first big test comes Friday when they host defending PSAL champions Sheepshead Bay.

“You’re not going to replace Shaine, but you just have to buckle up and hope things end up your way,” said Martin head coach Mike Greene. “I think we can go back to the playoffs, we just have to get them to believe in themselves.”

The Bayside Commodores also will be vying for the top spot in Queens, thanks mainly to running backs Richie Richards and Drew Williams. Richards, Bayside’s version of Superman, will play all three backfield positions, while Williams has improved tremendously, making him a very dangerous threat.

Head coach Joe Capuana will be hard-pressed to replace some of his key players from a year ago — Kevin Forrester, Marcus Lugo, CJ Okogeri, David Coleman and Andre Lewis — but there is also ample talent in his returning players to help fill the void.

Quarterback Zanu Simpson is back, giving Capuana both leadership and athleticism at the position, while Kenny Johnson and Bashkim Blaku anchor both the offensive and defensive lines.

The one negative so far has been starting corner back Jason Hawkins, who was lost for the season with a severe leg injury. But Capuana said his team is rallying around its fallen star and, while he will be missed on the field, Hawkins may prove still to be a valuable member of the team.

“I think they’re playing this year for this kid,” Capuana said. “Offensively, we’re executing very well right now. We’ve always been a very strong defensive team and I expect us to be a strong defensive team again, but I think the offense is a little ahead of the defense right now.”

Campus Magnet head coach Jimmy Ryan always has a pessimistic outlook in the preseason and his teams always seem to prove him wrong near the end of the year, thanks in part to his and assistant Joe Pepe’s work.

This year is no different for Ryan, who was hit hard by graduation and by academic eligibility.

“Just about the whole JV failed off. We have 26 or 27 players but we’re very inexperienced and we’re thin at most positions,” he said. “A lot of kids just walked on and never played football before.”

Back for the Bulldogs, who finished 8-3 and lost to eventual PSAL champs Sheepshead Bay in the quarterfinals last year, is TimesLedger All-Queens second team running back Courtney Jones for his senior year. He was part of a three-pronged running attack last year, but without Omar Edward and Raheim Bazile, the onus is solely on Jones’ shoulders.

Also returning is senior Ian Odom, who moves from tight end to fullback. Quarterbacking duties will be split between senior Eugene Liddy, an end last year, and junior Rueben Eloi.

The only two starters on the offensive line are seniors Jose Cordero and Dacartces Rene. Ryan lost standout lineman Davion Greenwood to August Martin in a safety transfer.

It may be a sports cliche, but Long Island City head coach Doric Capsis really is taking things one game at a game, especially considering the Bulldogs have yet to win a season opener in its three years of varsity football. He hopes to change that Friday, when LIC hosts John Jay at 3 p.m.

This year’s LIC team, Capsis says, will have a different look, especially since TimesLedger All-Queens first team running back Richard Akowuah (1128 yards) and starting quarterback Danny Urquia graduated. Also gone from last year is Corin Erby, who transferred to Christ the King.

“The execution of the offense is going to take a little time,” Capsis said.

But luckily for Capsis, the offensive and defensive lines are veteran, led by senior Shamar Stallwhorth and junior nose guard John Pena, who should help plug up what was a huge hole up the middle last year.

Even though he knew he would lose 18 seniors, including standout running back/linebacker Charles Kim, Bryant head coach Carl Brosnan optimistically upgraded his schedule this year, competing as a ‘3’ power rating up from a ‘1’ last year when the Owls finished 5-4.

Brosnan went into camp with 32 players, but now he is down to 25 after several players walked out of camp.

“We were supposed to have 11 kids back but a few failed off,” Brosnan said. “The kids that we do have, though, work hard. We have a few good kids at the skill positions. It will be a challenge this year.”

Among the returning players is senior fullback Almir Pupovic, part of last year’s potent 1-2 running punch. Senior Juan Gonzalez moves from tight end to quarterback and senior Anthony Murillo, a two-way linesman is also back on a small but spirited team.

“We don’t have great size so we have to make sure we’re in shape,” Brosnan said. “We need to try and win games late in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter so the emphasis is on conditioning.”

With a new coach and a new field, excitement is abound at Springfield Gardens this year.

After serving as an assistant under Rod Schatt for two years and running the junior varsity side last year, Charlie Yarborough takes over the reigns and promises a better result than last year’s disappointing 1-8 finish.

“We’ll do better than last year,” he said. “We have a stronger team and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a great record.”

A key to the team’s success, Yarborough said, is the senior leadership.

Brandon Rush, a senior fullback/linebacker and three-year starter, is the team’s top returning player. He also is a standout on the Springfield Gardens baseball team.

Also back are seniors Dwayne Brown, a linebacker/offensive linesman, 6-foot-1, 215-pounds; Rahjay Williams, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound offensive/defensive tackle; and halfback/safety Wali Reynolds, who will also split quarterbacking duties with Rush.

Among the newcomers, Yarborough likes what he sees from sophomores Nevon Roach, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound center/defensive end and fullback/linebacker Garet Lynch.

One win and Flushing head coach Joe Kaso will have more victories than the last two years. The Red Devils, a combined 0-17 the last two years, have indeed fallen on hard times since being one of the top teams in the now defunct Metro Conference four years ago. Flushing hosts second-year program Grand Street Campus Friday at 3 p.m.

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