Regardless of Record, Stuyvesant Football Is Winning
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On the surface, this pandemic-era Stuyvesant football season looks like a bust. The team has a losing record and has one of the youngest rosters in program history. But those facts are also what makes this season so great. One year ago, these players were sitting at home, losing their football season to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they are getting to play their sport, and regardless of wins and losses, they are playing, and that fact is a win.
The season started off quite poorly, with the Peglegs losing to A. Philip Randolph High School 36-0 and 41-6 in back-to-back games. Both were gritty affairs with Stuyvesant committing many turnovers and failing to stop Randolph’s running attack, which had a combined 627 yards between the two games. While this performance may look bad on paper, it can be chalked up to a number of factors. The most devastating factor has been that all high school sports are playing at the same time this season, which has rendered a large portion of the team (as well as head coach Mark Strasser) unable to serve the team due to obligations with other sports. Strasser’s absence thrust long-time defensive coordinator Michael Tauber into the head coaching role. He had to grapple with a condensed pre-season practice schedule and the fact that the team had not played a game in 17 months to get his team ready for the season ahead.
He also had the challenge of the team being extremely young. “We are very young. In the past, we [...] never had more than two sophomores on varsity at a time. We have about eight starting right now,” Tauber said. Most of the eight starters have never played varsity football, and those who have played only registered a combined four touches in the whole of last season. This lack of experience clearly showed in the first two games and was a big factor going into their third game of the season against Adlai Stevenson High School, a 16-6 win that marked the first victory of the season and the first in many players’ careers. “We were just way more organized. This team is full of a bunch of sophomores and juniors. It took a really long time to mesh as a team. We kind of got it together this week,” senior defensive back and team captain Derek Fang said after the game, when asked about what had changed. His comments underscore the point of this season for the Peglegs. There is a tacit understanding that they are building for the future and that their best days are ahead of them.
Those days will be dominated by today’s sophomores, including quarterback Efe Kilic and running back/free safety Samuel Glusker. Glusker, who had two touchdowns and an interception in a breakthrough performance, gave the credit for his performance to his team. “We were functioning on all levels, everyone was making plays, everyone stepped up, and I just stepped up when the opportunities were there and converted,” he said.
As the team looks forward to the fourth and last game of the season against Lehman High School, as well as the future of Peglegs football, it will be on the backs of players like Glusker to step up and continue to execute at a high level. They will also need Kilic, the starting quarterback, to deliver. It was a rough start to the season for Kilic, who had only 30 passing yards over the first two games, while throwing four interceptions. However, he turned it around in game three, completing seven out of 15 passes for 57 yards and not turning the ball over, a considerable feat considering the youth on the offensive line and skill positions.
While Kilic and Glusker may be the cornerstones, the defensive unit also has a lot of potential to build on. Against Adlai Stevenson, they notched two interceptions from Glusker and junior receiver and cornerback William Woodruff. They also continuously pressured the quarterback, getting one sack. However, the brightest moments were not against the pass, but against the run. After being shredded apart by Randolph, they bottled up Adlai Stevenson’s run game, only allowing one quality run, a garbage-time touchdown from Adlai Stevenson’s quarterback. Whether or not they have performances like this one or those against Randolph will determine Stuyvesant’s future for the next several seasons.