The Ferris High School football team’s losing streak had reached 34 straight setbacks, dating back to November of 2013.
Needless to say, it’s not a stretch that anyone involved with the Bulldogs wants to dwell upon.
“They had been getting their butts handed to them, week after week,” said Juan Garcia, who enters his second season as the head coach at his alma mater. “In all honesty, they didn’t truly believe they could win.”
However, on Oct. 28, 2017, the Bulldogs managed to defeat Marist, 34-14, to break the hideous losing streak, the longest such streak in the entire state.
“It was better for the kids than it was for me,” Garcia said. “It was awesome to finally win. It was a big-time win.”
However, Garcia made sure that the Bulldogs all realized one thing.
“It was just one win,” Garcia said. “It was just one game. We wanted to keep things moving.”
The Bulldogs ended the 2017 season with a loss to Parsippany Hills in what the NJSIAA has dubbed a “consolation” game for those teams that don’t qualify for the state playoffs.
Soon after the last game and a season that ended with a 1-8 record, Garcia and his Bulldogs went to work.
“We had a good offseason,” Garcia said. “We were in the weight room every day. The summer was very good to us. The kids have been doing well. They understand what is expected of them now.”
But still, there’s the memory of the one win last October. It’s much better than the 34 straight losses.
“We’re trying to use that as momentum for this year,” Garcia said. “The kids understand that. They show up on time and they’re ready to work every day.”
The 2018 season began Sept. 1 with a heartbreaking 26-19 loss to Cliffside Park, but that loss definitely shows major signs that Garcia and the Bulldogs are finally moving in the right direction.
Leading the way is senior quarterback Josten Malave (5-9, 175), who had a brilliant day against Cliffside Park, completing 18-of-21 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. It’s the best passing day a Ferris quarterback has enjoyed in decades.
“Josten is a lot more athletic than anyone else we have at quarterback,” Garcia said. “He played a lot for us there last year. I’m putting a lot of pressure on him this season and I’m expecting a lot from him.”
If the first game is any indication, Malave is well on his way to having a stellar senior season for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have two running backs that Garcia will use in senior Deronn Scott (5-8, 160) and junior Esaw Jamison (5-7, 150). Scott was suffering from a bit of a sore knee in the preseason, but he seemed to be coming along nicely as the season began.
The fullback is senior Allie Kargbo (5-10, 190), who Garcia thinks is a very good blocker from the fullback position.
There is depth and talent in the wide receiver corps. Senior Nathaniel White (6-2, 190) is a solid specimen. White had six receptions for 129 yards in the season opener.
“He’s a legit receiver,” Garcia said.
Senior Jaiden Washington (5-10, 160) and junior Jamar Best (5-10, 150) are two other targets for Malave to throw to.
The offensive line features some decent sized players, almost resembling a college offensive line.
Senior tackle Raymond Rodriguez (6-3, 260) and senior center Harold Conde (6-0, 260) have been part of the Ferris football program for several years. Conde is a four-year starter while Rodriguez has started for the last three campaigns. That experience has to mean something.
The other tackle is junior Alex Santiago (6-1, 250). The guards are junior Jason Burgos (5-9, 260) and junior Frank Ramos (5-11, 385).
As you can see, the Bulldogs have some beef along the line of scrimmage.
Defensively, the Bulldogs utilize a unique 4-2-5 alignment with two linebackers and five defensive backs.
The defensive ends are Kargbo and Rodriguez with Santiago and Conde playing defensive tackle.
The linebackers are Jamison and Washington.
The secondary features juniors Corlique Reed (5-10, 180) and Josiah Ramkellowan (5-11, 180), along with senior Nicholas White (5-11, 160 and no relation to Nathaniel White) with Best at safety and the aforementioned Nathaniel White at cornerback.
If there’s one aspect to this year’s Ferris football team, it’s called improvement. The horrific losing streak is a thing of the distant past.
“Oh, yes, definitely,” said Garcia, who was honored last year by the New York Giants as being their Coach of the Week after the Marist win and was asked to represent his team on the field before a Giants’ preseason game in August. “We’re going to be a much better team this year.” – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.