The first sports story I ever pitched at the TimesLedger Newspapers was a preview on the Bayside High School varsity football team, a team, if memory serves, that had lost in overtime of the city championship the year before to the Wagner Falcons.
From that story sprang the sports section you now are reading or the one with which you are about to line your cats litter box and/or bird cage. In any case, in the more than a decade since I first lofted the idea of a sports story to my publisher, I am still waiting for the Bayside Commodores to get back to the city championship game.
This past weekend Bayside played that very same Wagner team and, while playing well, still found itself on the wrong side of a 20-0 final. It is a story I have written too many times over the years and I am tired of it.
While I pride myself on writing non-partisan copy, Bayside is my alma mater and while the team is continually in the playoffs hunt and is arguably the best team in the borough this year (public school team, at any rate), the Commodores just cant seem to win the big one.
Back in the 1980s, Bayside was not just a public school power, but one of the best teams in the tri-state area, period. Three brothers named Harmon (Derek, Ronnie and Kevin), all of whom went on to play in the National Football League, probably had a lot to do with that, but they were not where Baysides success began or ended.
The team was full of talented players and had a coaching staff second to none. And success was not limited to a season or two, but to years of excellence that stretched more than a decade. But since my tenure here began, Bayside has been a shadow of its former self.
And I dont fault anyone on the current staff for this. Head coach Joe Capuana is as good a guy and coach as you will find in the city. He handles his players the way a high school coach should and gets as much out of his team as can be expected. But the team seems snakebitten for some reason and I cant figure out why.
Every time Bayside comes up against one of the citys elite teams, such as Wagner or Curtis, things just do not go their way.
This past weekends game is a good example. Wagner, one of the teams expected to compete for the city championship this year, got the turnovers just when Bayside seemed poised to make a game of it, either because one of the Commodores receivers fell down or there was an ill-advised halfback option deep in Falcons territory.
In the teams non-league season opener against Curtis three weeks ago, Bayside was shut out, 24-0, against a team many expect to make it all the way to the title game. But if you were there and saw the way Bayside played, how it hung with Curtis the whole way and how the team was subjected to some of the worst calls and non-calls Ive ever seen in a high school football game, youd think God was working against them.
I have seen some of the best athletes to come out of Queens over the past 12 to 13 years and many of them played football for Bayside, guys like Gary Talbot, who could do anything he wanted on the gridiron, and Moses and Marc Thompson, Terrence Reynolds, Jason Grant, C.J. Okogeri and Troy Henry, who, to a man, was called the hardest hitter on the field at all times. And those are just the guys I remember off the top of my head.
Yet every year a few games seem to get away from Bayside that they should have won, a few plays, a few bounces of the ball. This years Bayside team already has lost two such games. Thats enough.
I dont want to seem like I am rooting for them, but so many years of watching bad things happen to a team gets monotonous. Its time Bayside made it back to the lofty heights it had reached in its heyday. It is time for the Commodores to sail again.
This declaration should not take anything away from the other teams in Queens or the city, all of which are deserving of equal success. It just seems that Baysides inability to achieve success on the elite level is more egregious.
Why? I guess, and this is a credit to the coaching staff from Tony Yacovone to Chy Davidson to Jack Ciano to Capuana it is because so much is expected of the team every year. The roster is never void of talent, the numbers are always on the strong side.
It could be that the Commodores dont have the complete package to claim the crown that used to be theirs, and theirs alone. But I dont subscribe to that philosophy. There have been plenty of times when destiny seems to have stepped in and denied the team.
Last year it was August Martin that nearly kept the Commodores out of the playoffs, beating Bayside on the final day of the season. But Bayside backed into the playoffs as the No. 14 seeded team out of 14 teams. And the club responded with a hard-fought 18-15 loss to No. 3 Canarsie in the post-season.
It was a tough game to lose, but proved Bayside could hang with the best team around.
This year is another opportunity for Bayside to get over the hump and knock off a top tier team. And I hope, as much as I am allowed, anyway, they do.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130. a
©2002 Community News Group
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