Alex Vega has been a part of the John F. Kennedy football program for 18 years, going back to when he was a 14-year-old freshman at the Bronx school. He can recite the team’s achievements at the drop of a hat: five PSAL city titles, two state crowns, and the Knights have missed the playoffs three times since 1981.
But Vega fears this season could be the fourth.
“There’s a lot of tradition,” the fifth-year head coach said. “That’s why this hurts so much. I’m not used to this.”
Kennedy was one of the best teams in the city last year. But the Knights graduated a key player at almost every position, including standout Stephen Obeng Agyapong, a running back/safety who is now at Penn State. Even worse, there’s a dearth of experienced players ready to take their place.
“We’re bad right now,” Vega said. “We’re young. We’ll be lucky if we make it to the playoffs.”
The problems, the coach said, are two-fold. Not only does Kennedy not have the athletes it’s used to, the current Knights are lacking on the development side, too. The school’s JV squad went 0-9 last year for the first time.
“The learning curve is a lot,” Vega said. “They’re a little bit overwhelmed.”
He will rely a lot on three seniors who’ll play both ways: Ryan Bosolet, Mike Vazquez and Jamel Lane.
Bosolet will attempt to fill in for Obeng at running back and safety; Vazquez, a 6-foot, 260-pounder will play defensive line and offensive guard; and Lane (5-11, 215) will be the team’s fullback and outside linebacker.
It’ll be Lane, Vega said, who will be expected to make plays on offense. He was one of Kennedy’s main running backs last year, one of a handful of players who have significant experience.
“He’s a stud,” Vega said.
The Knights, who were seeded fourth, were upset in the first round of the PSAL City Championship playoffs by No. 12 Tottenville. Vega said his team, loaded with talent at the time, went in cocky. He said that won’t happen again this year; it can’t.
“This team, we’re not gonna overlook anybody,” the coach said.
If there are some positives to take from the preseason, Vega said, it’s that Kennedy can only improve.
“We will definitely get better,” he said. “The fact that we’re so young is gonna help us in the long run.”
©2009 Community News Group