Young Green Dragon football squad aims to get experience
It was a case, excuse the cliché, of the Knights slaying the Green Dragons.
The Uniondale Knights traveled to Westbury on Sept. 13 and left the field with a 30-6 win in the Nassau Conference I football tilt.
“We’re the last-seeded team, ranked 12th,” Westbury head coach Savalis Charles said of the big-school league. “Uniondale is ranked fifth. They came with two buses. They’ve got 80 players. I got 25.”
But Charles thought that his squad might surprise some opponents down the road.
“It wasn’t like we were outmanned and outhustled today,” he observed. “It was blown assignments and mental mistakes. If we can fix things like that and come along, we can hopefully shock a couple of people.”
Opening game jitters were evident. The ball seemed to have a surface of grease as Westbury players had trouble holding on to it. Potential key turnaround moments were undermined when, on successive drives, they could not corral a first-down pass and an interception.
“Best thing I saw today was that they didn’t quit,” Charles said. “We’re a young team. Some of the guys played for the first time last year as 10th-graders. Now they’re in 11th grade and we’re still young. We still have a lot of growing to do. Mental mistakes—bobbling the snap, fumbling the ball. Things like that can be fixed.”
The hosts were tested early. Senatus Schneider stood back to punt on the first possession, and was forced to run the ball when the snap went over his head. The Knights took over at the Westbury 22, but the Green Dragon defense held on a fourth-and-3 from the 15.
Later, Westbury stopped the visitors 14 yards from the end zone as linebacker Jason Mendoza pressured quarterback Jawuan Shuford into throwing an incomplete fourth-down pass.
In between, the Knights put together 56- and 40-yard scoring drives and successfully converted both two-point attempts after the touchdowns.
The killer came in the final minute of the first half. Two plays after Westbury fullback Herick Sainbert’s 15-yard first-down run to midfield, Uniondale’s Soloman Henderson picked up a fumble and ran it 50 yards for a score. Captain Jeremiah Funchess’ timely tackle stopped the conversion run.
Kayden Liddie took Westbury’s second half kickoff 85 yards for a score and the ensuing two-point conversion made it 30-0.
The Green Dragons finally got on the board when Edme Xavier grabbed a bouncing fumbled ball and ran it 43 yards for the six with 7:24 left in the third. The ensuing kick was blocked.
Charles said his quarterback, junior Simon Mickenson, is a first-year signal caller, converted from wide receiver. He also singled out Sainbert, a senior, and Tebshem Strong, a junior, as two who could give Westbury a strong running game.
“Our wide receivers have some speed,” said the coach. “We didn’t get a chance to throw to them today. We just have to get them the ball.”
“I’m proud of the guys. They kept on fighting,” Charles concluded.
Westbury followed this loss with a 20-8 win at Hempstead on Sept. 21. The Green Dragons, down 8-6 at the half, scored 14 points in the third quarter to put the game away.
Winstead Voltaire gave the visitors a 6-0 lead with a 75-yard scoring run.
In the third, Edracson Michel snared a 13-yard pass from Mickenson and Strong then scored from the 3 and followed with the two-point run.
Mickenson completed 8-of-11 passes for 65 yards and Voltaire added an interception.
On Sept. 28, Westbury hosted Port Washington and was blanked 21-0 to fall to 1-2 in league play.