Pegleg Preseason: “Hell Week” and Preseason News

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On a cold, dark night at Pier 40 last November, Stuyvesant football fans gathered to watch their Peglegs face Frederick Douglass Academy at Stuyvesant’s homecoming game. The event had a positive, encouraging feel as the Peglegs received support all around from parents, friends, alumni, and staff. Various senior players were commemorated by fans and their teammates, marking a fulfilling close to each of these players’ journeys.

It seemed the Peglegs were destined to win when Principal Contreras and head coach Mark Strasser gave inspirational speeches, firing up the team and the crowd alike. However, it was not to be. The disheartening loss capped off a 0-9 season, and the Peglegs were subsequently moved from the B division down to the C division.

While the future of Stuyvesant football certainly didn't look bright after last year’s homecoming, there is every reason to be hopeful for the upcoming season. A solid team has been in the making this summer, harnessing new talent from the upcoming junior and senior classes to fill positional gaps left by last year’s senior class. These new starters will certainly have their work cut out for them, as last year's captains were extremely talented with Matthew Au as the offensive guard, Akhotsang Rigneyla as the quarterback, and Tahsin Ali and Perry Wang as running backs.

During the Peglegs’ rigorous preseason workouts, appropriately dubbed “Hell Week,” various players have shown promise. Junior and current starting quarterback Lucas Dingman has stood out during practices, stepping up to take charge of the offense. Juniors Henry Liu and Evan Wong show much potential on the front lines to fill the gap that Au left behind. Finally, seniors co-captain Tim Marder and former JV star Kevin Chan are sure to fill the positions of last year’s running backs.

“The captains this year are definitely looking to tear up the field, and there are very skilled junior players as well,” senior co-captain and center Eddie Zhu said. Zhu believes that while last year’s team had better individual players, this year’s chemistry is a lot better. Many of the current varsity players were part of the same JV team that had a successful regular season with a 6-2 league record a couple years ago.

The Peglegs have implemented changes in playing strategy to overcome the challenges they faced last season and to utilize the different positional strengths of this year’s players. In the B division, the Peglegs were overwhelmed by the superior physical talent of their opponents and struggled to compete. Pass protection was pervious, leaving the offense vulnerable to multiple opposing rushers, especially up the middle. Rigneyla’s completion percentage and passer rating suffered as a result (45 and 46 percent, respectively). The offense was unable to gain significant distance each down, and any passing was limited to quick-hitting screen passes. On numerous occasions, the Peglegs failed to put any numbers up on the scoreboard and were defeated by wide margins.

“We had strong guys, but not many. They held their ground but unfortunately couldn't focus on their own job well while helping their teammates who weren't as strong,” Zhu said. Strength and size were not strong suits for the Peglegs last year, who were beat on both offense and defense ends. Therefore, the Peglegs are moving back to up-tempo strategy that they used in the past, the idea being that linemen quickly get set up against the tired defensive line while the fast receivers outrun the opponents’ worn-out defenders. “Our speed and conditioning will allow us to outplay opponents and last much longer during games,” Zhu said.

In addition, the Peglegs have been tightening up their pass protection and defense. Senior and veteran offensive guard Damian Wasilewicz and Liu are excelling in the strength department in holding blocks on the line. On the defensive side, the Peglegs have strong defensive linemen, such as senior Andrew Park, to stop passing plays at their core. Meanwhile, senior linebacker Ian Sulley will keep inside runs in check.

While the Peglegs’ shift to Division C after last season can be degrading, it actually presents a new opportunity for the Peglegs. Historically, Stuyvesant was seen as a championship level team in Division C—they had competed in the championship for two years in a row and made the playoffs multiple times before that as well. A shift back down to Division C will allow the Peglegs to be more competitive and participate in the championship hunt.

The Peglegs are very confident in their current lineup against Division C schools. “I’m confident that my teammates and I have the desire to dominate this season, and that we will bring prestige back to the Stuyvesant Peglegs’ name in Division C,” Zhu said.