ORANGE, NJ – Orange head coach Randy Daniel is quick to point out that his team should have lost only one game last year. Instead, they lost six in going 4-6.
Daniel will tell you that the Tornadoes lost a bunch of close games that they let slip away, including in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 4 playoff quarterfinals against eventual champion North Hunterdon. In that game, Orange was leading 9-6 at halftime before falling 26-9.
“Last year, we should have been 8-1,” said Daniel, noting the only legitimate loss was to Passaic Valley. “We just couldn’t put it all the together.”
This season, Daniel and his coaching staff have made a point to tell their players to stop thinking about state titles and start taking care of other aspects on a day-by-day basis.
“We’re trying to explain to them to quit pressing,” said Daniel, who has been at the Orange helm since 1996. “They want to win a state championship, which we all do, but they have to understand that the best way to win a state championship is to forget about trying to win a state championship, and worry about the day-to-day activities and that will take care of itself. The state championship is a by-product; you have to do the little things; that’s what we have to focus on, the little things, and be positive, and quit pressing. We’re pressing too much.”
Directing the offense at quarterback will be senior Jameer Reed, who played JV last year. Daniel has been impressed by Reed. In fact, Reed reminds Daniel of Darryl Sims, the Orange quarterback on the 2001 state championship runner-up team.
“He’s worked hard,” said Daniel of Reed. “Jameer is a total team guy.”
But without a doubt, the Tornadoes’ best player will once again be senior running back/cornerback Nyquee Hawkins. One of the best players in the state, Hawkins committed to Virginia Tech this past spring, over offers from several major Division 1 schools.
“No question, he is the ‘Man,’ ” said Daniel of Hawkins. “He’s the hardest working guy that ever walked the grounds at Orange High. He’s been working since seventh grade; working in the weight room at 7 a.m. He never misses a workout.”
Hawkins also will be a threat as a kick returner and punt returner.
Hawkins is an excellent student in the classroom. In fact, Daniel mentioned that his entire team has an approximate 3.0 grade point average, which is the best since he has been at the helm.
The receiving corps is fairly inexperienced. The lone returnee from that group is senior right side slot Nigel Thomas. The others are senior left receiver Trevion Thompson, senior right-side receiver Keyshawn McCrudy, and sophomore left slotback Montez Boswell.
The offensive line is young, consisting of junior left tackle Zyvion Lathan, sophomore left guard Tashon May, junior center Tnaj Brown, sophomore right tackle Justin Caesar, and junior right guard Al’Ky-Juan Green.
Despite their youth, Daniel has high hopes for the linemen.
“Each week we’re going to get better,” Daniel said. “They have the talent, but they’re young. But they’re going to get better.”
The defense offers a 4-4 look. On the line, senior A.Z. Parks and Lathan are the ends and Green and May will occupy the tackle spots.
Curtis Lynch, a senior, and Thomas are the inside linebackers, while McCrudy and Boswell are the outside linebackers.
The secondary is the strength of the unit. Hawkins and Thompson are the cornerbacks, and Reed will play the safety position.
Daniel feels the defense has much potential.
“Up front, we’re young, but I think we’re going to be scrappy,” Daniel said. “The secondary is strong, but the inside is where we’re going to have to develop.”
The kicking game will be handled by sophomore newcomer Julen Louce, who also will serve as the punter. Thompson will join Hawkins as a kickoff returner.
For the Tornadoes to stop the trend of heartbreaking losses, patience and focus will prove vital.
“I’m trying to get them to settle down, quit worrying, and play your game,” said Daniel. “Stay positive, believe in the system, and I think we can play with anybody.”
August 31, at Irvington, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7, Snyder, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15, at Ferris, 1 p.m.
Sept. 21, Weequahic, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28, at Bloomfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6, Barringer, 4 p.m.
Oct. 13, Millburn, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19, Belleville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26, at Memorial, 7 p.m.