This past year marked head coach Jason Brown’s second leading the varsity squad after previously serving as the JV head coach.
“Christ the King always had talent, it was just a matter of putting the kids in the right structure to compete, and that was our Achilles heel,” coach Brown said. “I was blessed to have a lot of athletes so it made it easier. You can’t mess up when you have a bunch of athletes on the field.”
Of those standout athletes are nine seniors who are getting ready to play college football starting this fall, five of whom will be taking their talents to the Division-I level.
Brent Priester, a two-star recruit according to 247sports, is a linebacker who will be playing for Old Dominion later this year. As a senior, Priester recorded a team-high 107 tackles, two forced fumbles and two sacks.
“People weren’t expecting a lot from us this year, it was kind of frustrating, and our way to react was by beating everybody,” Priester said with a smile. “Old Dominion is going to help me excel in the future. They’ve got a great degree program, it’s possible to get my masters in four and a half years, and it was an opportunity to play D-1 football.”
Defensive lineman and linebacker Lorenzo Worrell was one of the league’s most effective pass rushers, accumulating a team-high nine sacks this past year. He also made 56 tackles while forcing and recovering one fumble. The 6-foot-5 edge rusher will be taking his talents to Stony Brook.
“I know a couple of kids that play on the football team and coach really liked me so I decided to go there,” Worrell said. “I’m ready to get my game better, get stronger, get faster, and see if I could get to the next level.”
Cornerback Garfield Hall is set to join the Wagner Seahawks after leading the Catholic League with four interceptions. He said Wagner’s consistent display of high interest helped him make the decision easier to attend the Staten Island school.
“They showed me a lot of respect, really got after it, kept in contact with me,” Hall said. “The coaching staff there is great, players are great, it’s like a tight brotherhood like I had here.”
Hampton-bound outside linebacker Matthew Grizzle, who made 85 tackles and had a team-best three fumble recoveries, also played an instrumental role in a defense that only allowed a league-best 12.5 points per game.
Among Grizzle’s reasons for choosing Hampton was its ranking as one of the best Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country. Grizzle says among everything he’ll miss at King will be the brotherly bond in which football creates.
“Being together for four years, we do everything together, I’ll just miss playing with my brothers,” he said. “I feel like we played great this year, came up a little short but it happens. We definitely balled out though.”
Running back/wide receiver Giovanni Downie is the fifth D-1 player produced by the 10-1 Royals. Downie ran for 464 yards on 37 carries (12.5 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He also made eight catches for 100 yards on the season, and will be attending Delaware State as a walk-on for football.
“Since I’m a walk-on, I have to work hard to beat the other guys out,” he said. “Coach told me if I could at least get plays in the game, touchdowns, anything, I’ll get a full scholarship. That’s my main goal right now to get a full scholarship and later on leave there with a brand.”
Whenever your starting quarterback could throw for 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions for the season, you know it’s an encouraging sign. Royals quarterback David Navas, who will play at Division-II Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, focused as much on academics when making his college decision.
“It really gave me the tools to excel, to be a student athlete along with giving me an opportunity to have an internship with Homeland Security,” Navas said. “Football really helped shape and gave me the responsibilities and discipline that I need.
“Playing quarterback for this team had its ups and downs as everything does in life, but I really enjoyed it,” he added. “I already had the support of my team and the really gave me the tools that I needed to win.”
Safety and cornerback Nicolas Calle recorded two interceptions and made 61 tackles and will soon become a Buffalo State Bengal. The D-III bound athlete ultimately felt wanted by the upstate university, citing a level of comfort upon making his decision to attend the Empire 8 member, while also discussing the high level in which his Royals performed at all season.
“We always made plays on the ball, we always fly to the ball, that was one of the things we always did in practice, we always moved to the ball no matter where it was,” he said. “I’m going to miss it very much, especially playing with my senior class, balling with them since freshmen year.”
Alex Miranda was one of the team’s leading receivers, making 18 catches for 409 yards and five touchdowns. He’s committed to Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
“I’m trying to go and start my first year and compete for a spot,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I can to win my team a championship.”
Ahmad Fernandez was the team’s leading rusher, picking up 608 of the teams 2,500 yards on the ground, while carrying the ball 73 times (8.3 yards per carry). Fernandez also scored nine touchdowns, and will attend Morrisville State University.
He credited his level of production to the big boys up front, while highlighting the teams overall performance.
“Most of the success goes to the linemen, they created the holes, we just exploited them,” he said. “We did play beyond our expectations. I didn’t think we were going to have a great season running the ball like that. That’s kind of a magical thing.”
With several of his key guys going off to college, coach Brown cites that the program is progressing, and looks to display a level of consistent success moving forward.
“It’s the start of something. Last year we had a couple of guys go division one, we have five guys going division one out of nine, which is very rare for the city,” he said. “Not too many guys in New York City get a lot of credit and now our high school program is growing. That’s my main focus is to get these kids to college.”
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY.