It was only 2010 when Fort Hamilton won the Public School Athletic League’s city title, but that seems like a lifetime ago after the Tigers went through a 1-7 season last year. There were a few reasons for the struggles last season, mostly injuries, but it’s something that they’d like to put behind them and, if possible, use it as motivation to bounce back this season.
“We had a young team that went through a lot of injuries last year and we’re trying to turn it around this year,” Fort Hamilton’s head coach Daniel Perez said. “If you look back, we technically had a fourth-string quarterback taking most of our snaps, a kid who moved from wide receiver to play QB out of necessity, and a running back who was almost my fifth string kid.
“With so many injuries, it would have been hard to win that way with an experience team let alone a young one.”
The two main pieces of this year’s team barely played last year. Quarterback Adrian Maldonado missed all but three games with a concussion and Isaiah Washington played in just six games due to a hip injury. Both players are back this year and Perez is excited about the prospect.
“We want to put everything from last year behind us,” Maldonado said. “We do try to use it for motivation, to push ourselves, everyone is working hard this year to put it behind us. It was unfortunate that we had so many injuries, but that also motivates us to work hard in the weightroom to make sure that we’re physically ready to be out there.”
There are going to be plenty of doubters this year, which is something the team understands, but down to a man they’re all looking avoid a repeat of last season.
“With a record like that there are going to be plenty of doubters,” Washington admitted. “But we’ve got players back, we’ve got Adrian back and we want to bounce back really bad. Fort Hamilton has a great football tradition and last year was not something that we’re proud of. We want to get back to that great tradition.”
The problem is that a lot of Fort Hamilton’s players are still young and many don’t have set positions yet, but it’s an ongoing process that coaches and players alike both feel that will be handled much better this season without a huge amount of injuries to hinder them.
“A lot of our new guys are playing all over the place,” Perez said. “We’re still trying to find out what we have. It’s a test.”
Among the newer, younger players is sophomore Sharif Legree, the younger brother of Jeffrey Legree, who led Fort Hamilton to back-to-back city titles in 2005 and 2006.
“Sharif is very athletic just like his older brother,” Perez said. “He’s probably more athletic than Adrian, but without his leadership skills. He’s one of the young players that we have that we’re excited about.”
Among the other players Perez raved about included receivers Devon Watts and Juan Tejeda. There is also junior Michael Brooks and the player that everyone on the team seemed to be talking about, Peter Mazidis on defense. “Our defense will be great, Peter Mazidis is our defensive man,” Washington said.
It’s likely going to take some time for the team to gel though, which was apparent after last Saturday’s 35-6 loss to Poly Prep. As bad as that score looks there were some things to be encouraged by though. Most of that score was due to a 28-0 first half as they were outscored just 7-6 in the second half. That’s what happens with young teams though, they take time to gel.
“That’s what it’s really going to come down to, gelling as a team and finding spots for some of the younger guys,” Washington said. “Even some of the better teams that I’ve been apart of, it took us some time to gel.”