David Diaz has a rather simple answer why his Christopher Columbus football team has struggled the past two years. The Blue Steel have gone a combined 0-18 and haven’t won a game since Nov. 11, 2006, a first-round playoff victory against Lincoln.
“No linemen,” the 12th-year coach said. “You can’t do anything without the guys up front.”
If Diaz’s formula holds true, Columbus should be OK this season. A pair of brothers will lead the Blue Steel in the trenches. Junior Al Page, a 6-foot-2, 295-pound left tackle and defensive tackle, is getting college interest from Maryland, UConn, Syracuse, Rutgers and Buffalo.
He has started since his freshman year, but his older brother, Avery, missed his entire junior season in 2008 with a shoulder injury. The 5-foot-10, 280-pounder will start at right guard. “So far, so good,” Diaz said of the preseason. “It’s definitely better than last year.”
Columbus isn’t just big on its line, either. Diaz is moving 5-foot-10, 220-pound senior Nihad Cekovic from center to fullback, and tailback Robert Mervin, whom the coach says could surprise this year, is 6-foot-2, 235 pounds.
Even quarterback Brandon Sanchez (6-2, 205) is large with a good arm. He had a 40-yard touchdown strike in a scrimmage Thursday afternoon.
Those players are going to be integral to the Blue Steel’s success, because most play both sides of the ball. Sanchez will start at strong safety and Mervin is the team’s middle linebacker.
“They have to stay healthy,” said Diaz, who started the football program at the Bronx school.
If they do, there’s no reason Columbus will go another season without a win.