PATERSON, NJ - The way Eastside High School’s varsity football coach James Magazine views the impending season is that his team can only get better. The first year helmsman acknowledged that following up on last season’s 1-9 record, the present campaign would be, “a rebuilding year.”
Magazine knows his team well because he has monitored the sidelines every moment with the Ghosts for the last seven years as an assistant coach. The 1995 Eastside graduate played quarterback for his alma mater and went on to be the starting QB at American International College in Springfield Massachusetts for three years.
“I’m encouraged,” Magazine said during his team’s recent picture day at Baurle Field. “We had 25 kids on the freshman team this year but after we sent out word about football sign-ups, 25 more kids registered.”
With many high-school athletes turning to soccer, the turnout marked the first time that Eastside has fielded a freshman team in three years.
Magazine said that one of his goals is to return to the winning ways of Eastside football in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In 1994, the Ghosts defeated perennial state powerhouse Bergen Catholic.
A seeming challenge the Ghosts face this season is that they will field only four returning senior starters, the coach said. However, Magazine told TAPinto Paterson that the statistic does not reflect game time experience of his players.
“We had a number of underclassmen start last year, including four freshmen,” Magazine stated. “We have five starters returning this year on offense and six on defense.”
One of the returning 2018 9th graders, Ashin Jacobs, garnered All-County honors as a wide receiver. His twin brother, Jashin Jacobs, joins the Ghosts this season having transferred from DePaul.
Magazine said that two players will share time at the key position of quarterback-junior Wymeir Reed and senior Michael Jackson III. Reed started at quarterback for the Ghosts last year. Jackson played for Eastside as a sophomore and started four games. The senior played for Irvington last season and started four games for the Blue Knights.
“Both are good passers,” Magazine said. “Jackson is also good running the ball.”
Another key player, according to Magazine, is sophomore Amir Smith who went both ways last year at running back and linebacker. Arthur McFarland will anchor the defensive line and Kelvin Medina will move to center from his position last season at right guard.
Another key defensive lineman is returning starter, senior defensive end, the 6’3” Edwin Elony. Senior 210-pounder Samir Chapman will see duty at both middle linebacker and fullback and 12th grader Chris Santana returns at wide receiver while also serving in the often overlooked, but vital, position of long snapper.
Prior to photos, several players reflected on the upcoming season.
“This summer I worked out almost every day with several of our receivers here at the field,” Jackson III said. “I’m looking forward to the season. I’m more of a pro-style quarterback that stays in the pocket. If I have to, I will run.”
Chris Santana said that he feels this year he and his teammates will, “go to the next level.”
“Our goal is to play for the state championship at Kean University,” the three-year starter stated. “I love to play receiver. I like most when I am split wide. There is more room to run pass routes and maneuver.”
Santana said he feels comfortable being the target for both of his team’s quarterbacks.
“Going 1-9 last year was upsetting,” Santana reflected. “Now everyone thinks we’re not good enough. We’re out to prove everyone wrong.”
Jadyn Kitchings will line up on the opposite side of the field as the Ghosts’ other split-out. The senior tore his ACL early in the season last year and is eager to compete. He also plays cornerback but admitted his favorite place to line up is offense.
“I like to score,” Kitchings summarized.
Senior Dashawn McClain will provide speed on pass patterns when lining up in the slot. The 17-year old senior has been clocked at 11.4 in the 100-meter dash for Eastside’s track team.
“I’ve played football since I was a little boy,” McClain said. “My uncle, Eddie Johnson, played for Clifton. Football is in my blood.”
As always, fans will have to wait until the final game of the season to see Eastside square off against their cross-town rivals, the John F. Kennedy Knights.
Assistant Head Coach for the Ghosts is Kenny Ford. Assistant Coaches include: Khali Ahmad, Bernard Williams, Mike Jackson II, Lindsey Jacobs, Roger Alexander, Morris McKenzie; and Kumar Davis. Shamir Hall is the freshman head coach with assistants Tyreek Brown and Joseph Lusk.
The 2109 Eastside schedule: Sept. 6: at Hackensack; Sept. 13: vs. Teaneck; Sept. 19: at Bergen Tech; Oct. 4: at Ridgewood; Oct. 11: vs. Clifton; Oct. 18: at Dwight Morrow; Oct. 25: vs. Passaic Valley; Nov. 1: vs. Passaic Tech; Nov. 27: at Kennedy.
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