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Flushing wins one for Blake

High school football returned to Flushing with a bang Saturday afternoon. After a six-year hiatus and a double forfeit in their season opener because of a paperwork error, the Red Devils were victorious, blanking Info Tech, 20-0, at Long Island City Field.
The team’s thoughts, however, were elsewhere. They remained in northeast Queens, at the New York Hospital Queens intensive care unit in Flushing, where senior Blake Hunt remained, still suffering from a broken neck.
“On the sidelines, we talk about him; we want to play for Blake,” senior lineman Ryan Parchment said. “That’s our motto: Winning for Blake. The first game is for him, the next game is for him, and all the games this season are for Blake.”
On September 1, Hunt broke the C5 vertebra in his neck during a four-team scrimmage. He is in fair condition at New York Hospital Queens, but has no movement in his legs or right arm. He may not walk again.
The 5-foot-6, 240-pounder was battling sophomore Jordan Beranger for the top running back spot and was expected to see time as a defensive back. Instead, Beranger carried the load. When the two spoke this week, Hunt asked Beranger “to score touchdowns” for him.
He obliged. Beranger got Flushing on the board with a 65-yard punt return and ran for two more scores, accounting for 120 yards on the ground. He also played cornerback, punted, and was on the field during every play until a fourth-quarter knee injury forced him out.
“It was going to be a two-headed monster with him and Blake,” Flushing Coach Jim DeSantis added. “And when Blake went down, [Beranger] became the guy. … When he scored that first touchdown, I told him ‘you’re going to be the man in this league.’ ”
It has been a rocky first few weeks for the Red Devils. After Hunt’s injury, the team took a few days off from practice. When they returned, the players were quite understandably not emotionally into it. Hunt was on all of their minds.
One day, during one of DeSantis’ visits to the hospital, he spoke with Hunt’s father Greg who told DeSantis his son wanted the team to play, and more importantly, win. When the coach returned with the message, it galvanized the team.
“It was kind of like they were waiting on Blake’s word to go ahead and play,” DeSantis said.
They certainly have not forgotten the Jamaica native. Players visit Hunt’s hospital room on a daily basis. They think about him every step of the way. Before and after Saturday’s victory they prayed - an odd sight at a high school football game.
“I know the whole church and state thing,” DeSantis said. “This is bigger than us.”
“I told him we are going to play our hearts out for him,” Beranger said, relaying a conversation with Hunt. “The whole season is for him. Everything is just for him. We are going to win the championship for him.”

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