By Joseph Staszewski
Homes, stores and boardwalks aren’t the only things being rebuilt in Beach Channel.
The Dolphins football program hit rock bottom after superstorm Sandy rocked the neighborhood’s shores three years ago. The winds and rain damaged much more than the field and locker rooms, they also swept away the team’s heart and soul. Beach Channel was left with just six kids attending off-site practices. It forfeited its final two games, which became part of a 22-game losing streak in the PSAL’s City Conference.
“Two or three years ago I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do it any more,” Dolphins coach Victor Nazario said. “Material things can be replaced, but just the attitude and general culture immediately after the hurricane was not what I wanted it to be.”
His team’s field was repaired and gradually its spirit has come back, too. Beach Channel, which has 35 kids on its roster, moved down a division and is enjoying success again. After dropping their first two games in the Bowl conference, the Dolphins (4-5) won two straight and currently just need a win over league power James Madison to secure a first playoff berth since 2012.
“It’s refreshing,” Nazario said. “This time last year we were just counting the days, counting the practices.”
His team made its road to the postseason more difficult by falling to Springfield Gardens 20-14 at home last Saturday, but adversity is nothing new to this group. Many were displaced during Sandy, battled through losing seasons. The Dolphins rallied twice again Springfield Gardens when past teams would have packed it in. They used an 11-play, 99-yard drive to tie the score at 14-14 late in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been tough,” junior quarterback Joshua Timmer said. “We lose and they don’t just give up. Last year, the year before that, they would just give up in the second quarter. This team, they are strong.”
Timmer has been part of a solid leadership group that has kept it that way along with senior Omar Brown and Cashane White. They met with their teammates in the preseason to tell them that what happened in the past was unacceptable. Those first two wins over John Adams and Petrides hammered the message home for good and began to bring the pride back.
It just brought the whole team up, brought the community back,” Brown said. “We just never stopped after.”
In order to keep going past this week, the Dolphins will need to go on the road and beat a Madison team that is 8-1. Beach Channel’s silver lining is that three of its wins came away from home. It will need one more for the program’s rebuilding to take the next step.
“Just play like champions,” Brown said. “If you want to go into the playoffs, this last game you have to play like it is a championship game.”
Even if they don’t become champions at season’s end according to the record books, these players are already winners for re-establishing a culture at Beach Channel that Sandy nearly destroyed.