PATERSON – The Silk City Sharks, Paterson’s adult semi-professional football team, has made progress, but it goes far beyond the yard markers on the field.
General Manager Mark Fischer has seen it all, years before the Sharks evolved from an idea, emerging from the twenty-year vacancy of semi pro football in Paterson, with the ending of the powerhouse program that was the national champion New Jersey Wolverines in 1995, and its predecessor, the New Jersey Raiders.
The remnants from that Wolverines juggernaut, which tore through the northeast corridor, and finished with a decisive performance in the AFA championship in Florida, are now the gears that run the Silk City Sharks today.
Fischer was the general manager of that Wolverines tornado. Sharks vice president, Mike Harris, who had ended his eleven year semi pro career one year before the Wolverines, became Fischer’s administrative assistant. Head Coach, Charles “Cowboy” Mills, was the hard blocking tight end and later offensive lineman. Assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, Randy Brazil, still calls the plays and draws from his experience as a former Wolverine offensive lineman. Assistant coach, Rahmann “Roc” Simmons was another Wolverine lineman.
All of them were former teammates with the Raiders. All of them have witnessed the progress of the Silk City Sharks from Roc’s kitchen, talking about the Wolverines and Raiders days, to the initial collection of individual talent in 2017, ending the regular season 4-6, good enough to squeeze into the eighth seed of the playoffs.
That contest in the Bronx, across from Yankee Stadium, against the very seasoned Harlem Gators, didn’t end well, but that was expected. Another step forward in the progression process.
Last year, a bit more seasoned, experienced, deeper in the roster, and a bit more ravenous for success, the Sharks tore through the EFA schedule with ease, undefeated, matching up in the final regular season game against the Long Island Red Devils, who applied another lesson to the young Sharks.
They would meet again in the championship, with the Red Devils coming in as heavy favorites.
It took a last second incompletion in the end zone for the veteran Long Island team to claim the crown.
A hard lesson, but another step forward in the progression of the Sharks.
This year, a new league, new players, but the core of that inaugural team has guided the Sharks to a 10-0 start.
Progress noted two weeks ago when the Sharks faced an undefeated Philadelphia Cardinals team in Paterson. This time, there would be no lesson taken, as last year, but a lesson given, with a last-minute goal line stand and an 18-14 win at Baurle Field.
The Sharks dispatched the New Jersey Knights last weekend in the first round of the playoffs, winning 36-0. They face the West Philly Marauders Saturday, coming in as the third seed and a 7-3 record.
The Sharks defense rose to the occasion against the Marauders earlier this year with a 12-6 decision.
The memories of watching the Red Devils scamper back to their sidelines in victory in last year’s championship game are still fresh in the minds of Sharks veterans like quarterback Quatrell Huffin, linemen Elijah McKenzie and Syheem Farrar, running back Marquese Marrerro, and receivers Prince Block and Deon Davis. Still fresh in the minds of defensive backs, Richard Gutierrez, Rachonn Johnson and Rockee Santiago and linebackers Reinaldo Algarin and captain, Steven Knight.
What once started as a collection of teammates discussing the reincarnation of semi pro football in Paterson, to a collection of individuals on the field starting the process of success, has now become a perennial force once again in New Jersey.
The next step is the Marauders this Saturday night at Baurle Field at 6 p.m. for the right to get back to the championship game.
The next step, is to bring it home.
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