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Kevin Antoine never played quarterback before — not even in Pop Warner leagues as a youngster.
But the Bayside senior, who started last season at free safety, is going to be asked to step in under center for a squad with high hopes.
“I think I’m a better wide receiver than quarterback, but I’ll do whatever it takes to help us get to the championship,” Antoine said.
It has been a while since Bayside, one of the PSAL’s most storied football schools with seven city titles, has been at that level. The Commodores last won a championship in 1981, the last of three straight for the Queens program.
Bayside hasn’t really been a contender since 2005. Last season was the first time since then that the Commodores had a winning record: They went 6-3 and fell to Sheepshead Bay in the PSAL City Championship playoffs first round.
And there are plenty of player losses from 2008, most notably strong-armed quarterback Damir Djukanovic and do-it-all playmaker Onur Gurbuz, who both played in the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge all-star game in June.
“On paper, it definitely seems like we lost a lot, because we did,” third-year Coach Jason Levitt said. “I think we had 115 receptions. Three of the receptions are back. Carries, we had around 100. Five of them are back. Most of the tackles are gone on defense. There’s a lot of things to replace. We’re going to miss our quarterback throwing the ball 65 yards downfield. You can’t deny that.”
What Bayside won’t lack this season is size. The way Levitt sees it, the Commodores will win or lose with their offensive and defensive lines, the biggest in recent memory at the school. Leading the way on both sides is Aslam Sterling, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound guard who is getting interest from Rutgers, Albany, James Madison and Stony Brook.
He’ll be joined by Tyrell Okoro (6-5, 310 pounds) and David Byno (6-2, 285).
Every starting lineman is taller than 6 feet and heavier than 260 pounds.
And it isn’t just their size that makes them successful.
“This is the nastiest offensive line we’ve had here,” Levitt said.
“They just want to get after it. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Antoine will be happy to get the protection. He won’t just be the team’s primary quarterback; he’ll split out wide as a receiver when Bayside gives teams different looks. Unlike last year, when Djukanovic’s arm was essentially the team’s entire offense, these Commodores have options.
“He’s showing us everything,” Levitt said of Antoine. “He’s a great leader and he’s making big plays all over the place.”
That includes on defense, where Antoine will continue to be the team’s star free safety. Senior Aaron Frazier is a lockdown corner and a three-year varsity player and senior Reggie Aime will start at middle linebacker in his varsity debut. Aime, whose cousin, Jeffrey, was a star running back at St. Francis Prep and now plays at Hofstra, never played before due to academics.
“He’s a beast,” Sterling said of Aime. “He’s big, he’s strong and he’s not afraid of anything.”
Bayside could be bigger, deeper and more versatile than last year, but will the team be nearly as offensively dynamic? Gurbuz made plays from the backfield, as a receiver and on kick returns. Will there be anyone to fill his shoes?
“What we need is a playmaker to emerge. We haven’t seen them yet. That’s the truth,” Levitt said. “We’ve seen our glimpses. But we haven’t seen them against anyone else yet.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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