CROSS RIVER, N.Y. - Bryce Ford, John Jay’s former quarterback, put together one of the most memorable seasons in Section 1 history last season and led the Indians to a Section 1 Class A championship when they defeated Rye. For the season, he recorded 3,760 total yards of offense, a Section 1 record. He also rushed for 2,043 yards, which puts him sixth on the single-season Section 1 list.

“Bryce is an incredible athlete,” John Jay coach Jimmy Clark said. “He was able to create plays on his own. But what Bryce really brought to the table, was that he was a guy that refused to lose. You always have a chance to win when Bryce is on your roster. That’s rare in football. That’s definitely true in other sports where there are not as many members (of the team) on the field at one time. Bryce was just not going to let you lose.”

And the Indians didn’t lose until the state quarterfinals when they fell to Cornwall, 35-14. Ford played through an arm injury, and the right-hander was only able to throw one pass the whole game. It was his with his left hand.

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But now Ford is at Fairfield University, playing lacrosse with his twin brother, Dean, and John Jay must move on.

Taking over at quarterback is senior Luke Mercer, who was Ford’s favorite target at wide receiver last season.

“He’s very similar to Bryce,” Clark said. “He throws the ball well and has the same quickness, agility and athleticism. It’s just a matter of learning the offense and learning how we do things. He has to find his Luke Mercer, who Bryce was throwing to. He has to find some of his weapons that will help him be successful at quarterback.”

Some receivers who Mercer will be targeting this season are senior Max Miraglia, senior Ian Gallagher, freshman Chris DiChiara, senior Bobby Chang and senior Henry DeGrasse.

The primary running back is junior Jon Connelly, who saw plenty of carries last season after Dean Ford tore his ACL in the second game.

“He has good speed and he’s strong,” Clark said. “He’ll definitely run it up inside and get the tough yards, but he definitely has breakaway speed as well.”

Joey McCormick, a senior, will also get reps at running back.

Senior Shane Martinsen is a leader on both sides of the line.

“Shane came to us as a quarterback and linebacker,” Clark said. “He can probably play those positions and do well, but because of the structure of the team, we had to move him and put him on the line. He’s been phenomenal. He could end up being the best defensive lineman we’ve ever had. He has a motor, he’s strong and he’s ferocious. He’s a very aggressive young man and is learning the position day by day. His ceiling, he hasn’t even come close to reaching it.”

Joining Martinsen, the right tackle, on the offensive line are a quartet of juniors: Matt Ferrer (left guard), Grady Halaifonua (left tackle), Dan Gonzalez (center) and Will Stein (right guard). Ben Brevetti, a senior, will also rotate in on the line.

Martinsen and senior Gavin Fiacco are returners on the defensive line.

“Their speed and tenacity on the d-line will certainly be our strength,” Clark said. “We should give some teams some fits up front.”

Ferrer will be the starting noseguard and has “worked really hard in the offseason and put on some good weight,” Clark said.

Halaifonua is the squad’s middle linebacker with Gallagher and junior Ryan Brennan at outside linebacker.

The defensive backs could be Connelly at one safety and Degrasse at the other safety with Miraglia, Chang, Mercer and senior Sebastian Degenhardt seeing time at cornerback. Clark noted that the secondary positions were not yet set in stone.

Clark said that speed and athleticism are a main strength of the team. The Indians also have multi-sport athletes across the board.

“I think we have just two kids who don’t play another varsity sport,” he said. “They’re multi-sport athletes. They may not necessarily be football people but we’re not looking to just have football players. We’re looking for athletes and when it’s football season, they come and play and compete.”

John Jay opens with what may be its toughest game of the regular season. The Indians host Our Lady of Lourdes at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6.

“It was a phenomenal season, but this is a new group and that’s old news,” Clark said when asked if there’s pressure to live up to what the team accomplished last year. “We understand that even though we’re a new team, we’re still going to have the target on our back. Our mindset is really is that we just have to worry about the process each day and getting better. We have to worry about ourselves and not what we did last year. We just have to focus on today and the details will take care of the results.”

Schedule

  • Friday, Sept. 6, 6:30 p.m. vs. Lourdes
  • Friday, Sept. 13, 6:30 p.m. vs. Hendrick Hudson
  • Friday, Sept. 20, 7 p.m. @ Brewster
  • Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. @ Walter Panas
  • Friday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. @ Lakeland
  • Saturday, Oct. 12, 6 p.m. vs. Beacon