Camp Confidential: No. 13 Thomas Jefferson
MSG Varsity will visit the top teams in New York City during preseason camps and will unveil our preseason power rankings each day leading up to opening kickoff. In today's edition of Camp Confidential, we take a look at No. 13 Thomas Jefferson.
LAST SEASON: 3-6 (Lost to Lincoln in PSAL Championship quarterfinals)
HEAD COACH: Gus Cyrus (4th year)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: DT Ebenezer Ogundeko, QB Al Stewart, WR Kendall Thomas
OUTLOOK: In a search for consistency, Thomas Jefferson is looking to be more than the league’s most dangerous underdog.
Memories can be funny things. While they can be a mixed bag of good and bad, they tend to have an annoying ability to stick around. Just ask Jefferson head coach Gus Cyrus about last season.
The good: Despite a 3-6 record, the Orange Wave still managed to be one of the most dangerous teams in the PSAL, sporting a win on championship runner-up Erasmus Hall and giving eventual champion Lincoln their toughest game of the season in the quarterfinals.
The bad: Losing too many winnable games and blowing an opportunity to topple the league’s most dominant team (Lincoln again) by failing to convert on eight two-point conversions in the playoffs.
“We were two points out of it last season and it left a bad taste in my mouth,” Cyrus said. “On our first day of practice this season, it was the first thing I spoke to the team about. We were the only team that scored on Lincoln like that last year and we left all those conversions on the board.”
“All we needed was a two-point conversion. We had a lot of opportunities and we missed out on a huge win,” added senior quarterback Al Stewart. “We know now that we need to play four quarters of football.”
Upset, the Orange Wave coach, couldn’t stick around at Yankee Stadium for the entire title game, leaving before Lincoln was crowned.
“I was so upset,” Cyrus said. “We beat Erasmus and I thought that could have been us. I left during the game because I kept thinking that I refuse for us not to do our best and end up on the sidelines again.”
A season later and with a fresh opportunity to prove that it can be more consistent, Jefferson is looking to make some new memories. Led by a defense that will be bolstered by star recruit Ebenezer Ogundeko, the Orange Wave will approach things with a defensive mentality.
The 6-foot-3 Ogundeko, the top rated player in the state, is fielding offers from Florida, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Indiana, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Alabama, Tennessee, Oregon, Wisconsin, Clemson, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt to name a few. He led the team with 79 tackles and 11 sacks last season and is optimistic about the upcoming year.
“Our players work hard and work their butts off,” Ogundeko said. “We’re more disciplined than in previous years and it will show this season.”
Cyrus, who has been working with Ogundeko since he was eight years old, has the upmost belief in his senior defender.
“I don’t think that there’s an offensive tackle in the city that can stop him,” Cyrus said. “He is the best in the city and the state. He’s going to make anyone that goes up against him pay.”
“He [Ogundeko] motivates us because he’s such a hard worker,” said senior wide receiver Kendall (Speedy) Thomas. “He makes many of our younger players work even harder to get to where he is.”
Thomas, who saw time last season as both a running back and receiver will be the featured wide out this season.
“I’ve been his [Thomas’] quarterback since I was eight,” said Stewart. “I know how to get the ball to him and he knows where to go when I need him.”
With running back Michael Abanikanda (Temple) and receivers Will Noble, Dajon Dixon and Neville Alexander graduated, the primary on-field leadership will come from the three players and Cyrus doesn’t hold back when describing the importance of their roles.
“They’re the leaders on this team and I have a lot of expectations for them,” Cyrus said. “This year they have the burden of leadership to bear and as I tell them, they will lead us as far as we will go.”
The only remaining question and the one that can’t be answered just yet is, will this team be more memorable than they were last season?
Sept. 8 at Brooklyn Tech
Sept. 15 at Canarsie
Sept. 22 vs. JFK
Sept. 29 vs. Sheepshead Bay
Oct. 7 vs. New Dorp
Oct. 13 at Herbert Lehman
Oct. 20 at New Utrecht
Oct. 27 vs. Erasmus Hall
Nov. 4 at Grand Street
Check out our No. 12 team Sunday at 10 a.m.