“This team can go as far as it wants.”
Those were the words Freeport coach Russ Cellan said to his Red Devils at an early juncture of this season. He called the proclamation “uncharacteristic” for him so early on “but it was so evident.”
Though he explained that “seeing it and saying that doesn’t mean it’s going happen,” Freeport went further than anyone. It capped its first 12-0 season by besting defending champion Oceanside for the Nassau I championship and toppling unbeaten Floyd, 20-19, in the Long Island Class I title game. It was the Red Devils’ sixth triumph in the LIC and second in three years.
“It’s satisfying to everyone involved when a group of kids reach their goals and fulfill their potential,” Cellan said. “It doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s a great thing to see.”
Freeport didn’t just win every game. It never trailed in any game, often throwing a knockout punch early. The Devils are masters of the big play and outscored opponents, 214-13, in first quarters.
“I am so proud of what we accomplished,” said senior Justin Lescouflair, one of four Freeport players named to Newsday’s all-Long Island first team. “Yes, we have a very talented team. But we also put in the work from running in the early mornings during the summer to be as well-conditioned as we could be to being focused when we always had the bullseye on our backs.”
Lescouflair, the quiet leader bound for Army, accounted for 15 touchdowns – 10 on the ground, three in the air and two on punt returns. But he was just one star in the Freeport constellation.
Quarterback Terrance Edmond, a junior who played wideout on Freeport’s Long Island titlist two seasons earlier, came into his own this season. He ran for 12 TDs and threw for a dozen more. He kept getting better as the season wore on, rushing for four touchdowns and passing for two more in the win over Oceanside and throwing for two in the victory over Floyd. He is 20-3 in games he has started at quarterback.
“As he gained more and more confidence, he realized he could separate himself from the other players going against him and he came into his own,” Cellan said. “The way he runs the ball – the way we run the ball – it really limited [opponents] on what they could do against us. If they didn’t load up, he was free to run; if they did he was attacking one-on-one coverage.”
On defense – and the Devils were as lethal there as with their super-charged offense – it was seniors Gerard Smikle and Jordan Jackson taking charge. Both were Newsday all-Long Island first-teamers. Smikle, a linebacker and the rare three-year starter for Freeport, was in on 65 tackles (10 for a loss of yardage), forced three fumbles and recovered four. Cellan bared witness to Smikle’s drive to compete when, as a freshman, he wrestled at the varsity level and knew then he wanted him to start two years ago.
Jackson, a defensive back, was in on 25 tackles and broke up 17 passes. In the Class I title game against Floyd, he blocked a potential game-tying extra point with 8:18 to play and also had a 13-yard touchdown reception from Edmond and the game-ending interception.
“I’d been a quarterback on the JV and was disappointed all last season when I didn’t earn the spot and ended up a defensive back,” he said. “But this year I embraced it and I love being a defensive back. Playing this role on this team, with what we did, was amazing.”
There were plenty of other fabulous success stories on Freeport. Junior Arnold Cruz – the rare non-senior picked to be captain – was in on 35 tackles and even caught a pair of touchdown passes in the Nassau County final. Sophomore Jayvian Allen ran for 11 touchdowns, caught three more and broke up 15 passes as a defensive back.
“The focus of this group was the difference-maker,” Cellan said. “Lots of teams have talent. This one was focused on a championship and, I believe, that got them there.”
Road to the championship
Long Island championship