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Defending Class I champion Freeport takes it one game at a time

Freeport teammates, from left, Arnold Cruz, Jayvian Allen,

Freeport teammates, from left, Arnold Cruz, Jayvian Allen, Terrance Edmond and Myles Norris. Credit: James Escher

Last football season could not have gone better for Freeport, which won the Long Island Class I championship game. But the 2019 team is only focusing on the season in front of them.

“We don’t need to remind the team that last year was last year,” senior wide receiver and linebacker Arnold Cruz said. “This is a whole new season and this has nothing to do with anything that happened last year. That is the reason why we win every year, because we always have the same hunger.”

Freeport head coach Russ Cellan, entering his 34th season, said this year’s team has plenty of experience, especially at the skill positions. Senior lineman Myles Norris, junior slot receiver and defensive back Jayvian Allen, senior quarterback and defensive back Terrance Edmond and senior running back and middle linebacker Makhai Jinks each are entering their third year at the varsity level.

Jinks, who played his first two years as an offensive tackle, will make the switch to running back. Cellan said he expects the 225-pound Jinks to be a powerful runner and a stout linebacker.

“[Jinks] is one of the top linebackers on Long Island and he played two years at offensive tackle,” Cellan said. “He was a running back his whole life and when he came up to varsity in the 10th grade, he wasn’t good enough to be a running back. But he was a good athlete and we needed him on the field.”

The adjustment to running back wasn't something that happened overnight. Jinks said he had to work on several different aspects of his game to make sure he would be ready for the season.

“It’s just about getting my speed back,” Jinks said. “I was fast and then it went down as I focused more on blocking. Now I got my speed back and I’m feeling pretty good heading into the season.”

Edmond said Jinks’ willingness to switch positions to make the team better is what makes him an ideal teammate.

“[Switching positions] just shows what type of guy he is,” Edmond said. “He is a great leader and he is one of those guys who if you ask him to do something, he’ll do it. I like that about him.”

The trust that each player has in one another is how they build their chemistry. Cruz said that throughout the season, the team depends on much more than the players who start.

“We have many people who aren’t even starters that are such an important asset to our team,” Cruz said. “We must vouch for each one of them because it's not just us as individuals that are the reason we are so good. It’s the whole team, it's the coaches, it's staff, it's the families on the sideline that make us the program that we are.”

While the chemistry is strong now, the best way to keep it that way is by winning. The road to a chance at another title will begin when the season kicks off Saturday at Port Washington at 2 p.m. However, Cellan said the team is focusing on one game at a time.

“Anything short of winning it all is really a disappointment to us, as it is at other programs,” Cellan said. “But we don't look that far ahead. Everything is about who is the next game and who we have this week. If we do all of those things right eventually you will be the last ones standing.”

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