ORANGE, NJ – In his two-plus decade stint at the head coaching helm, Randy Daniel has built a tremendous program at Orange. Under his guidance, the Tornadoes have been a perennial state section playoff contender, while producing myriad talented players who have gone on to play at major colleges and even in the NFL.
For the past few years, the Tornadoes have fielded a mostly young team. But this year, Daniel’s squad is upperclassmen-laden.
“This is a junior- and senior-heavy team,” said Daniel, entering his 22nd year as the Tornadoes head coach. “This is the one year we don’t have to play freshmen or sophomores. The whole team is juniors and seniors. That’s rare for us. That’s what I’m excited about this year.”
The Tornadoes have one of the most exciting players in the state in Nyquee Hawkins. The junior wide receiver/defensive back is rated as one of the top players in the nation for the Class of 2019 with dozens of scholarship offers from several Football Championship Series schools. In addition to his athletic prowess, Hawkins has a great work ethic.
“He is one of the hardest working kids to ever come through here,” Daniel said. “You can debate who is the best player to come through here, but you can’t debate who is the hardest working kid to come through here. He has been working out with us since seventh grade.”
Another positive change for the Tornadoes is the fact that they have legitimate linemen. In the past, the Tornadoes would have to convert natural skill players due to a lack of linemen. But that’s not the case this season, much to Daniel’s delight.
Senior four-year starter Wilgens Previlon (offensive guard/defensive tackle) leads the line on both sides. Senior center Joshua Fields and senior guard Rakeem Statum also will be featured on the O-line.
George Crespo, a junior, is back as the starting quarterback.
“George is the key to everything,” Daniel said. “We’re going to go as far as he takes us. He’s a hard worker and a great kid. He’s the hardest working quarterback I’ve ever had. He’s tough. That’s going to be his strength.”
The running game is led by senior Zach Kirkland, a speed back who is shifty, noted Daniel.
Defensively, senior Nasir Givens and junior Nigel Thomas are relentless ends. Thomas returned to OHS last year after playing at DePaul High School in Wayne in his freshman season.
“We expect the ends to be the strength for us up front,” Daniel said.
Senior inside linebacker and three-year starter Mahkye Boswell spearheads the defense.
“He is the ‘coach’, the ‘general.’ He is the one who will line up everybody,” Daniel said of Boswell.
The Tornadoes, normally a Group 2 or Group 3 school, have been reclassified to Group 4 this season by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. They are in North Jersey Section 2, Group 4. With a schedule that includes lower Group opponents, the Tornadoes will face the challenge of gaining enough power points to qualify for the state section playoffs.
Daniel feels his team has the pieces to have a successful season. But the main concern is to take it “one day at a time,” he said.
“We think we are going to be good, but we’re going to play some good teams,” Daniel said. “We’re going to have to be at our best. We just can’t walk out there and beat those teams. We feel good about it, but we’re going to have to earn it.”
Sept. 9, at Ferris, 1 p.m.
Sept. 15, Mahwah, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23, West Essex, 1 p.m.
Sept. 30, at Passaic Valley, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7, Barringer, 4 p.m.
Oct. 14, at Nutley, 1 p.m.
Oct. 21, Parsippany Hills, 1 p.m.
Oct. 27, at Central, 7 p.m.
Nov. 3, Chatham, 7 p.m.
Records for past three years
2016: 6-5 (Section 2, Group 3 state playoffs, lost to Morris Hills, semifinals)
2015: 7-3 (Section 2, Group 3 state playoffs, lost to Ridgefield Park, first round)
2014: 6-4 (Section 2, Group 3 state playoffs, lost to Parsippany Hills, first round)