In each of Steve Basile’s first eight seasons as the football coach at Midwood, he has taken his team out of the city for training camp. It is meant to build team chemistry while also testing the Hornets’ commitment with several intense practices each day.
Basile always has looked forward to the second-to-last-week in August for that reason, but he never enjoyed camp quite like this.
Lauding his players’ work ethic -- he didn’t hear one complaint for 5 a.m. weight-lifting and conditioning sessions or at the tail end of the third practice on a given day -- in addition to the camaraderie that was developed, Basile did everything short of singing “Kumbaya.”
“I don’t know how many games they are going to win,” he said following the five-day camp, “but they are a pleasure to work with.”
In past years, Midwood would hit a wall after the first few days, looking for any excuse to sit out or sleep late. Instead, these Hornets went through each drill and wind sprint at full speed while keeping an eye on one another as an older brother might do. They cheered for each other and corrected mistakes in a supportive way.
“We always talk about family this, family that,” Basile said. “These guys really are like a family.”
That’s not to say the Hornets are lacking in talent. They return starting tailback/strong safety Donovan Edwards, who has received significant Division I interest from Rutgers, Syracuse and Iowa. One of 19 seniors, he is joined in the backfield by fullback Scott Dorante and wingback Donovan Bleus. Beefy two-way linemen Dan Georges and Randy McCray bolster the trenches for Midwood. On the outside is speedy wide receiver Miguel Arias, a legit deep threat.
The key to making what could be a high-powered offensive run smoothly is junior quarterback Dominic Clarke. He led the JV to a 4-5 record last year, rushing for five touchdowns and throwing for three more.
“The No. 1 thing we’ll need to be successful is our quarterback play,” Basile said.
Clarke entered the summer on even footing with senior Matt Chase. But Clarke impressed since practice began in mid-August, whether it was with his eye-popping athleticism -- Clarke (5-foot-11) is a threat to take off as much as get the ball downfield via the air -- or hard work.
By the end of camp, he had left little doubt which signal caller would be the starter.
“He doesn’t give up; he just keeps going,” said Edwards, the senior running back who amassed 1,276 total yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago. “He’s good, but I have to see how he does against another team, not just our team.”
There will be plenty of pressure on Clarke’s shoulders as the leader of a senior-heavy team looking to make the playoffs after a one-year absence. He has passed all his tests with flying colors. Basile said it was so clear that when he made the decision, nobody blinked. Not even Clarke, a young man of few words.
“I’m not really surprised; I’ve been working hard,” he said, rather matter-of-factly.
Asked how he would react when the season starts for real -- Sept. 5 at home against rival Brooklyn Tech -- and mammoth linebackers are chasing him, he didn’t flinch.
“I don’t think I’ll be nervous,” Clarke said. “I’ll be ready.”
©2009 Community News Group
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