Now that the Tigers have reached the long-awaited goal one time, there are hopes to do it all once again in 2017.
“I think we’ve set a standard,” said third-year head coach Ray Marshall, who inherited a 30-game losing streak in 2015 and managed to win five games in his first season. “We hope to have a chance for the playoffs every year and then win a playoff game.”
Marshall was asked if he thought that idea was possible when he took the job.
“No,” he abruptly said. “I thought it would take years. We needed a couple of magical wishes to turn it all around.”
Marshall expects his team to be competitive once again this fall.
“I think this is one of the best teams I’ve had,” said Marshall, the former St. Peter’s College standout who was a long-time assistant at Lincoln before taking the Snyder job. “We’re really looking forward to getting over the hump and winning in the states. We should be winning playoff games now.”
That idea is almost unthinkable in other circles outside of Bergen Avenue.
“A lot of people don’t give us credit,” Marshall said. “It’s a shock to everyone that Snyder is winning. People just expect us to be the old Snyder, the one that lost every game. That’s not the case anymore. We can compete with anybody.”
Leading the way for the Tigers is junior quarterback Jahleel Baker (6-3, 210), who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors as a signal caller last season.
“People don’t understand that Baker threw for 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns last year,” Marshall said. “That somehow gets overlooked.”
The main running back is senior Bernard Shivers (5-11, 195), who is a transfer from since-closed St. Anthony. In fact, Marshall has been the beneficiary of the demise of St. Anthony, with seven former Friars now gracing the Tiger roster.
“He’s a hard runner,” Marshall said of Shivers. “He’s a little faster than Nolan [Burns, the two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area running back, now at Robert Morris]. We were fortunate that Bernard just fell into our laps.”
The fullback is junior Tyheem Black (5-11, 210), another transfer from St. Anthony.
Senior Nasir Smith (6-5, 215) returns as Baker’s main passing target. Smith, the basketball standout, had 50 receptions last year and also earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors.
“He’s Baker’s favorite,” Marshall said. “They’re best friends.”
Senior Titus Whitehead (6-2, 190) has been used as a quarterback and receiver the last few years. Whitehead will be the other starter at wide receiver this year.
“We’re lucky to have Titus,” Marshall said. “He’s been here since Day One, since the days when we didn’t win. He remembers how it used to be and can relate that to the younger players.”
The offensive line resembles a good college line.
Senior Eddy Russell (6-5, 285) and junior Joshua Leander (6-2, 265) are the tackles, with junior Jordan White and senior Ali Camara (6-1, 255) at guard and senior Demetrio Vasquez (5-11, 260) at center.
“Not only are they big, but they’re talented,” Marshall said. “They’re also a very close knit group. They bought into the weight room and understand what we’re trying to do.”
The Tigers utilize a 4-3 defensive formation.
The defensive ends are senior Kevon Bryant (6-2, 205) and sophomore Jahreese Josiah (6-2, 230).
The defensive tackles are Vasquez and Camara.
The outside linebackers are Shivers and Block, with senior Kyshawn Brandon (6-2, 210) at middle linebacker.
Senior Gary Carter (5-11, 175) and junior Juwuan James (6-0, 175) are the cornerbacks. Carter will also see time at running back on offense.
Whitehead, a four-year starter, and senior Isaiah McCord (6-0, 180) are the safeties.
The Tigers were slated to kickoff the 2017 season against Northern Valley/Demarest on Friday, Sept. 8.
Marshall feels that he has to raise the bar this season.
“The skies have to be the limit,” Marshall said. “One thing is that we haven’t won a first game since I’ve been here, so that’s the first goal. We want to get the first one.” – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.