ORANGE, NJ — Despite early-season adversity, the Orange High School football team continued to work hard.
Their perseverance paid off. The Tornadoes recorded their first win of the season with an emphatic 35-19 win over Barringer on Oct. 8 at Bell Stadium on homecoming.
It also was the first win for interim head coach Khalfani Alleyne, who took over the helm after longtime head coach Randy Daniel stepped down after the second week of the regular season. Alleyne, a 2001 OHS graduate who played for Daniel, has been on the OHS football coaching staff for the past six years as an assistant/wide receivers coach.
“It feels great,” said Alleyne, who continued his football career on an athletic scholarship at Stony Brook University. “It feels good to get that monkey off your back.”
The Tornadoes were led by senior Nazmir Palmer, who ran for approximately 200 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore quarterback Maurice Williams threw two touchdown passes to receiver Khyron Hill.
The Tornadoes were fairly young entering the season. After losing to Chatham in the season opener at William Paterson University as part of the Zone6ix Kickoff Classic, the Tornadoes had to forfeit their second game, against West Side, on Sept. 10.
On Sept. 14, Daniel announced his decision to step down after 25 years at the helm. Daniel became the OHS head coach in 1996, leading the program to numerous state playoff appearances, including its only two state championship games, in 2001 and 2009.
Daniel was inspirational to hundreds of former and current OHS players, especially to Alleyne.
“It was great” to play for Daniel, said Alleyne. “Coach D was amazing. He was a father to a lot of us. He was a great mentor, a great father to a lot of us out here. Playing underneath him, it opened our eyes to a lot footballwise. A lot of things we didn’t know or understand, he opened our eyes to a lot of it, just how to play the game, period.”
Being the head coach now is surreal, Alleyne said. “Being the head coach of the school that I went to and played for, coaching at the same field that I was raised on, a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this field, it’s surreal. It’s a bittersweet dream come true. It’s bitter because you hate to see Coach D go and resign, but it’s sweet because with him resigning, it gave me the opportunity, basically. He vouched for me as the next coach, and without him doing that, who knows when I would have had the opportunity, or if I would have had the opportunity. I’m definitely grateful for that and grateful for him doing that, because he could have said anybody in the world, but he said my name, so it was great.”
Alleyne wants to continue to help instill OHS pride in his players.
“Orange football is heart, hard work and dedication,” he said. “The saying here is, it’s hard to be a Tornado, because not everyone has those things. We demand excellence, not only on the field, but off the field as well. You carry yourself well as a young man, you represent not only yourself, but your family, us as a football family, you represent the city once you put on the ‘O’ on your helmet and your chest. You represent the city of Orange.”
Despite the losing record, Alleyne is excited about his team this season. “My No. 1 hope for the rest of the season for the kids on the team is to raise their grades and raise their grade-point average. That’s my No. 1 hope for the rest of the season. Beyond that, footballwise, I am looking forward to the guys on the team to finish up the rest of the season strong, one game at a time.”
The Tornadoes hope to get their second win when they host Livingston on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Kerry E. Porter