Lincoln’s names have changed, but the talent remains
While standing on the sidelines at Yankee Stadium watching quarterback Javon Moore lead Lincoln High School to a championship last season, Paul Litvak thought to himself that he would have the same opportunity this year except for one problem — he weighed 300 pounds.
“I don’t think Lincoln has ever had a 300-pound quarterback, so I knew that I had to get to work to lose the weight,” Litvak said.
So Litvak started hitting the weight room hard. He also started eating healthier and running on a regular basis. The results paid off. Litvak lost 80 pounds during the offseason and will lead Lincoln on its road back to Yankee Stadium as its starting quarterback.
The problem is that losing 80 pounds is the easy part of the job. Now he has to fill the shoes of an all-time Railsplitter great, which is what a lot of players on Lincoln are currently trying to do with big names like Thomas Holley, Antoine Holloman, Malik Andrews and others from last year’s undefeated team gone.
“It might be a lot of new names, but a lot of these guys were on the team last year,” said Lincoln’s head coach Shawn O’Connor. “A lot of them were either under the radar, and nobody knew their names or they didn’t play much. That’s good though because it gives them a chip on their shoulders and it’s something to work for.”
Three important starters from last year that are returning are offensive linemen Agustin Amendola, Jyrell Stewart and Jehoshaphat Buissereth — three big, strong linemen that will continue Lincoln’s tradition of having a powerful line that will provide protection for new guys.
“That’s seriously amazing [to have those three back] because I know that those linemen protect me, they protect the entire offense,” Litvak said. “They have serious experience. I look to them so that I can make the right calls. It’s a great burden off my shoulders. I have a three-year starter at left tackle that protects my blind side.”
Some of the other names returning are on defense where O’Connor expects three defensive backs, Elias Davis, Jordan Dixon Mack and Maurice Allen, to be the strength of the team. Alejandro Oregon, Dionte Fleming and Jordan Nicholson will also return. Six-foot-four, 270-pound sophomore Romello Martin, a transfer from Bishop Ford, is expected to play a big role.
“We expect the defense to be really good this year, but it’s a little different,” O’Connor said. “We don’t have a big guy like Holley. Instead, we have speedier guys and a few that have a lot of experience. Our secondary is going to be our strength. Those guys are a bit bigger than we’re used to back there.
The offense is where we start seeing new names and guys that weren’t marquee players last year. Litvak is the starting quarterback. He’s got Roget O’Neill behind him, a junior with exceptional speed. In the backfield O’Connor expects Prince Klutsey, a transfer from Holy Cross, and sophomore Dayquan Audin to see the majority of the playing time. Luis Rodriguez will be the primary receiver with Justice Seals, a transfer from Bishop Ford, and Michael Tud to be the secondary options.
The team’s motto right now is, “Don’t let Lincoln graduate.” That comes from the idea that while the Railsplitters lost some big names to graduation, they don’t want to let their talent graduate.
“Yeah, we lost a lot of our guys from last year, but it’s not like this team doesn’t have talent,” Outside linebacker Nicholson said. “Right now we have 33 seniors on the team. That’s the most our coach has ever had. A lot of us have experience playing on the JV team too, so we’re comfortable playing with each other.
“We think that eventually we can be better than last year’s team.”
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