By Zach Braziller, Dylan Butler, Marc Raimondi and Joseph Staszewski
For the first time in a long time, Queens had one of the best football teams in the PSAL.
Under sixth-year Coach Eric Barnett, Campus Magnet advanced to the City Championship semifinals with a combination of size, speed and athleticism. The Bulldogs boasted one of the best lines in the city and a top-notch defense. Flushing was no slouch, either — if not for two forfeits after a costly brawl with DeWitt Clinton, the Red Devils could have earned a better seed in the postseason and gone further than the first round. In the Bowl division, Beach Channel won the regular-season title and earned a berth in the championship game before falling to Truman.
CHSFL Class AAA teams were down. Holy Cross was inconsistent despite a brilliant year from wide receiver Devon Cajuste and St. Francis Prep suffered a second-straight disappointing season. But Christ the King had one if its best in recent years. Behind Syracuse-bound quarter Terrel Hunt, CK was one of the elite teams in the AA-A division. It finished 6-4 and won its first six games.
All-Queens football Player of the Year: Devon Cajuste, Holy Cross
Devon Cajuste entered the season as a marked man as only the third New York City player to commit to Stanford University after receiving offers from Notre Dame, Penn State, West Virginia and a host of other major Division I-A teams.
Every team in the CHSFL made it their mission to try and stop the 6-foot-4, 211-pound receiver and yet the senior still led the league with 47 catches for 864 yards and nine touchdowns — remarkable, considering the Knights had a subpar 4-6 season.
But Cajuste wasn’t just a star receiver. He was one of the best punters in the league and, when Holy Cross suffered injuries in the defensive backfield, filled in at safety as well.
“He’s one in a million, they don’t come along too often,” Holy Cross Coach Tom Pugh said. “When you get them, you enjoy them. I’ve had some great players in my program, but I don’t think I’ve had anyone quite with the skill level of Devon.”
All-Queens football Coach of the Year: Eric Barnett, Campus Magnet
Six years ago, he took over a floundering and rudderless program in need of direction. He not only has Campus Magnet pointed the right way, but he has taken it to newfound heights — a winning percentage above .550, the playoffs four years in a row, the quarterfinals last fall and the semifinals this past season.
Emotional, passionate and driven, Barnett rarely accepts kudos for the work he has done. When asked how special getting to the final four was, he talked about hoping it would get one of his players a scholarship.
“My whole goal is to get these kids into college and they’re not gonna get there unless we’re winning,” he said.
This season was a particularly special one in Cambria Heights because the Bulldogs nudged their way into the city’s elite, defeating defending champion Curtis twice and giving runner-up Lincoln all it could handle in the semifinals. Barnett’s players give all the credit to him.
“He’s one of us,” senior running back Wavell Wint said of Barnett. “He’s been in our shoes, he’s played football. He can relate to us in a big way.”
QB Pat Burrello, Beach Channel
The senior had all the numbers: He was second in the Bowl division in passing yards (1,155), second in passing touchdowns (12) and third in completions (53). But Burrello, who followed in his brother Ben’s footsteps as a signal-caller at the Rockaway school, did as much for Beach Channel with his leadership and poise, leading the Dolphins to the Bowl title game.
K Kevin Correa, Flushing
The converted soccer player had the best leg the PSAL has seen in a long, long time. He made a pair of field goals this season, including a booming 50-yarder against rival Campus Magnet and completely changed games with his kickoffs, almost always recording a touchback. With the capability of hitting from 57 yards in practice despite no official training, Correa could easily be a high-major college kicker.
QB Kevin Durkan, Holy Cross
Despite sharing the snaps with junior Yianni Gavalas, Durkan had the second highest quarterback rating in the CHSFL ‘AAA.’ The senior leader completed 61 percent of his passes and threw for six touchdowns. Durkan also ran for 464 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 8 yards per carry.
QB Terrel Hunt, Christ the King
The Syracuse-bound signal caller played like a man among boys at critical moments in one of CK’s best seasons in recent years. Whether it was a sneaky pass, a bulldozing run or a touchdown-saving tackle at safety, Hunt provided it. He threw for 1,289 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 1,218 yards and 14 scores during a superb senior season.
OL Omar Hunter, Christ the King
The cornerstone to any winning team is its offensive and defensive lines. There may not have been a player more important to Christ the King than Hunter, a 6-foot, 255-pound two-way lineman. Hunter opened holes for CK runners and closed them up on the opposition.
RB Andrew King, Flushing
Remember this name. King is one of the city’s top returning running backs, a physical specimen coming off a 516-yard, nine-touchdown campaign. He only has interest from College Football Subdivision programs now, but that will certainly change. Mind you, he put up those impressive numbers on an offense without much of a passing attack. The opposition knew King was coming and they still couldn’t stop him.
OL Michael Lana, Holy Cross
The Holy Cross offense was ranked fifth in the CHSFL Class AAA and while Cajuste and Durkan received a lot of the accolades, Lana quietly did the blocking for the Knights. The 5-foot-10, 227-pound senior is a two-time all-league selection.
OL Marcus Smith, Campus Magnet
Campus Magnet ran behind the 6-foot-8, 380-pound mountainous senior whenever possible, even having Smith switch sides to vary the Bulldogs’ looks. The emerging Cambria Heights programs was of the best rushing teams in the city, in large part because of the mammoth holes Smith created.
WR Jayvaun Smyer, Christ the King
One of the Royals’ biggest strengths was its receiving core and Smyer was the most explosive. The senior’s chemistry with quarterback Terrel Hunt was evident, as was his ability to produce yards after the catch over the middle or down the sideline. Smyer had 19 catches for 477 yards, an average of 25 yards per grab and four touchdowns.
RB Brandon Wilson, John Adams
The senior rushed for just 601 yards, but he got the toughest ones. Wilson was third in the Bowl division in rushing touchdowns (12) for Adams, which would have made the Bowl playoffs if not for four forfeits due to playing an ineligible player. Wilson also had 79 tackles, two sacks and an interception on defense.
RB Wavell Wint, Campus Magnet
A close second to Cajuste in Queens Player of the Year honors, Wint was arguably the most versatile back in the five boroughs, as adept at breaking off a long run as making a big reception downfield. Speedy, strong and agile, he got better the deeper the game got. His finest moment came in the Bulldogs’ regular-season finale, a 22-17 win over Flushing when Wint scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in the final quarter. He finished the year with 16 touchdowns, 1,224 yards rushing and 352 yards receiving, numbers that didn’t even do him justice. Whatever College Football Subdivision or Division II program gets this senior will be pleasantly surprised.
DL Donavon Abreu, Campus Magnet
If there was an award for greatest turnaround, Abreu would win by a landslide. He had one sack and 14 tackles as a junior, but he put those numbers to shame as a senior, leading the PSAL City Championship division in sacks with 12 and adding four during the postseason. The quiet and humble defensive end also had five fumble recoveries, 65 tackles and scored a defensive touchdown.
LB Taron Fason, St. Francis Prep
St. Francis Prep had a down year, but Fason was solid as the anchor of the linebacking corps. The senior, who has drawn interest from Marist, was also selected to the All-CHSFL team.
LB Shaquille Frederick, Holy Cross
Holy Cross always seems to churn out quality defensive players and the hard-hitting and quick Frederick was just the latest. The 5-foot-11, 216-pound senior linebacker was not just stout on defense, the two-time all-league player was also a quality option in the offensive backfield.
LB Branden Oliveras, John Adams
If not for teammate Danville Harry, Oliveras would have led the Bowl division in sacks (12). Harry might have gotten to the quarterback once more, but Oliveras was also second in tackles (84) and had two interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown. Also, the senior ran for 325 yards and six scores on offense.
S Jhaleel Oswald, Campus Magnet
The Bulldogs’ leader on defense moved from outside linebacker to strong safety and only enhanced his college stock as a playmaker. For one of the top defenses in the five boroughs, Oswald made 78 tackles — third best in the City Championship division — added four sacks, three fumble recoveries and two touchdowns. No wonder UMass, Stony Brook, Maine, Buffalo and Rhode Island are interested in this dynamic senior.
LB Nick Pereira, Flushing
The leader of one of the best defenses in the city, Pereira didn’t have eye-popping numbers — 25 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown — but he made sure everything worked for the Red Devils seamlessly. The senior, a converted soccer player, was also one of the top punters in the borough.
LB Nelson Perez, Holy Cross
At 5-foot-11, 178 pounds, Perez wasn’t the biggest linebacker out there, but just tell that to the running backs and receivers who felt Perez’s powerful hits. Perez was also named to the All-CHSFL team.
DB Kedar Hunter, Holy Cross
Hunter simply made things happen for Holy Cross on both sides of the ball. He had two interceptions, including one he returned for a 40-yard touchdown against Chaminade. The senior, who has drawn interest from Delaware, also rushed for a pair of touchdowns in that critical win against the Flyers, showcasing his versatility.
DL Shittu Salami, Flushing
The Red Devils had a pair of forfeits and Salami missed the first game of the season, but he certainly made up for lost time. The undersized lineman had six sacks in six regular-season games and was also one of the top kick returners in Queens. Salami had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and also took a punt back to the house.
LB Kareem Turnage, Campus Magnet
If there is a better returning middle linebacker than the physical, sideline-to-sideline Turnage, we haven’t seen him yet. Second in the City Championship division in tackles with 85, he also had four sacks and was the linchpin to the Bulldogs’ physical, shutdown defense. The unit is in good hands with him.
DB Diequan Underwood, Beach Channel
One of the top underclassmen around, Underwood took the Bowl Division by storm, as a kick and punt returner, running back and playmaking cornerback. The dynamic freshman ran for 671 yards and eight touchdowns, also made four interceptions and added 23 tackles.
WR Tanner Brandimarte, St. Francis Prep
DL Keith Carrington, St. Francis Prep
OL James Driver, Campus Magnet
QB Scott Gadsden, Campus Magnet
QB Emilio Gigliotti, Long Island City
TE Chris Hartney, Christ the King
DL Danville Harry, John Adams
WR Joshua Levy, Long Island City
OL Tyrell Okoro, Bayside
DE/TE Adrian Paljevic, Holy Cross
WR Darrius Pritchett, Christ the King