By Joseph Staszewski
Armed with a fully renovated field and a renewed attitude, the Beach Channel football team wants to breathe new life into the program two years after Hurricane Sandy.
“I don’t know how good or bad we will be, but I’m looking forward to and am excited for the upcoming season because it’s refreshing,” Dolphins Coach Victor Nazario said. “It’s kind of like a reboot.”
Beach Channel was not able to use its newly turfed field when it opened preseason camp Sunday because improvements were being made to the surrounding track, according to Nazario. The Field Turf playing surface should be ready for use later in the week. Until then, the Dolphins will work out on the uncut grass of the school’s nearby baseball diamond with the football field in the background. It is hard for the players not to think about what it will be like to get out there.
“We see it and we are like, ‘We are still on this field?’” senior quarterback Darren Koomson said. “We know it is coming soon.”
The wait is easier to take because of the conditions the team had worked under last season. Beach Channel practiced at the Rockaway Ravens field 3.5 miles away on Beach 32nd Street. The players, who were dismissed from the campus’ three high schools at three different times, endured more than hourlong bus rides to the field with equipment.
That helped lead to the Dolphins suffering through a winless season playing home games at Far Rockaway. That team did not fully understand the value of practice and preparation, according to Nazario. The number of kids showing up eventually got so low that Beach Channel had to forfeit its final two games.
“It was very tough,” senior two-way lineman Juwan Atkins said. “We had to keep ourselves humble through all our losses. We traveled miles to practice, came home very late to do homework.”
The program has been on the uptick since the renovation of the field. Nazario expects to carry around 40 players — just seven seniors — on a sophomore- and junior-heavy roster. It’s the largest group he has ever had. In addition, this team, he said, has committed to the hard work and discipline needed to turn things around. Nazario even returned to the team’s wearing gold helmets.
“It’s going to be a little tough, but the kids have bought into re-establishing the culture that was lost two years ago,” he said.
Added Koomson: “It adds a lot of hope. We have a new field, so it attracts new people.”
The Dolphins will rely heavily on Koomson, junior receiver Devan Archbold and Atkinson. The three see a lot of potential in junior defensive lineman and receiver Omar Brown, junior linebacker B.J. Adegunle, sophomore defensive back Hakeem Omotesho and senior center Jose Guadalupe.
The player said they have been telling fellow students about their home and season opener Sept. 8 against South Shore to help drum up support. Their return is two years in the making.
“It feels wonderful,” Archbold said, “because we are back at home.”