New Coach Aims To Return Far Rockaway To PSAL Playoffs
By Elio Velez
Far Rockaway High School football coach Walter Wilkerson is not a stranger to the pressures of leading a team. The junior varsity previously was where the new skipper had a chance to ply his trade for two seasons and when the opportunity arose to take over the head varsity position, the quote "he who hesitates".. was never allowed to be finished
"In late April or early May, when I received the news I got the head coaching job, I was happy to hear it. When I was the assistant coach in my first or second year on the varsity, a reporter asked me about my goals and I said I planned to go to the next level one day," Wilkerson said.
"It's like asking the vice president if he wants to be president someday." The PSAL 2006 football schedule is made of nine games this season but that isn't the only concern. The transition to heading the varsity one is not to be taken lightly and Wilkerson knows it.
The team qualified for the postseason and advanced to the second round of the PSAL Bowl Playoffs in 2005, but the roster must once again be replenished and able to compete this year.
Wilkerson expects a roster of at least 25 players dressed in uniform and that's been around the number that the school has had in recent years. Gone are the days of the 1950's and 1960's where 100 players could have dressed up in uniform for a school that was once bursting at the seams with students.
Due to population shifts and the changes with new academies and schools being implemented inside the building, finding players can pose a problem as the student body decreases. Wilkerson says in the end that hasn't stopped the team from competing and making the playoffs in three of the past six years.
So what to make of this year's team? New York City Empire Football Game All-Star linebacker Jeremy Pruitt were among the key departures along with Karl Allwood and Carlton Robinson in last year's 7-4 campaign as the Seahorses lost to Brooklyn Tech in the second round of the PSAL Bowl Tournament.
Their offense was prolific in a seven game stretch during the 2005 regular season, averaging 34 points per game
What are the strengths for this year's squad? For starters, Wilkerson is looking towards a core group of seniors to lead the team in their playoff drive and the focus will start on the defensive end. A strong defensive front line will be the key to an aggressive defense and it will be successful if potential all-city candidate DT Shaun Wheeler can continue his progression into a feared player
In his third year of high school varsity ball, in which he had 10 sacks and 51 tackles, Wheeler is a legit 6 foot 4 and 320 pound man in the middle that can scare opponents with his speed and strength.
"Shaun is one of the most outstanding players. That's a huge boy. He's a specimen and it's up to me and the coaches to help him and get him to make some big plays for us," Wilkerson said.
Safety Ednut Egberongbe and DE Earl Armstrong are second year starters who have a mix of athleticsm and speed. Armstrong, 6'2 and 230 points, could see time at DT as well. Egberongbe has a high vertical leap and the senior made four interceptions while also seeing time at WR.
"We're going to use our speed and pressure opponents. John Madden always says that speed," Wilkerson said.
QB Balkar Singh returns and will see action as the fulltime quarterback on offense as Wilkerson mixes and matches to find a consistency level for his team as they take on New Utrecht on Saturday.
"I'm telling them that we're trying to get back to the playoffs again.... We got to play it one game at a time and execute one play at a time. We can't look ahead and take people for granted," Wilkerson said.
Far Rockaway PSAL Schedule: 9/9- New Utrecht- Gametime- 12 p.m. (Away), 9/16- John Adams-Gametime- 11 a.m. (Home), 9/22- James Madison-Gametime- 2 p.m. (Home), 9/30- Samuel J. Tilden- Gametime- 12 p.m. (Away), 10/7- Thomas Jefferson-Gametime- 12 p.m. (Away), 10/15- Herbert H. Lehman- Gametime- 12 p.m. (Away), 10/21- George Washington-Gametime- 11 a.m. (Home), 10/28- Grand Street Campus- Gametime- 11 a.m. (Home), 11/5- Jamaica- Gametime- 11 a.m. (Home).