Abraham Lincoln isn’t the defending city football champion. At least that’s what the Railsplitters team is telling itself, despite hoisting the trophy at Yankee Stadium last year.
There is good reason for this approach. Lincoln lost numerous stars on both sides of the ball on what was a senior-heavy championship team — including All-American defensive end Thomas Holley and quarterback and All-Brooklyn Player of the Year Javon Moore. There are plenty of familiar faces on this Railsplitters roster, but they feel last year’s crown belonged to those seniors. They want one of their own.
“We are not the same team from last year,” said starting quarterback Paul Litvak. “We don’t have the same players. We are a team that is hungry and we want to win another one.”
Lincoln will still have plenty of experience returning on defense, with senior linebacker Dionte Fleming coming back, along with defensive end Alejandro Oregon. Elias Davis will be the team’s top corner, and will be helped by Maurice Allen. Oregon, who played alongside Holley last season, could be primed for a break out campaign.
“I don’t think anybody is going to stop him this year,” Fleming said. “I brag about him too when I talk to other teams.”
The Railsplitters are hoping to give people something to talk about on offense as well, anchored by a veteran offensive line. The presence of third-year left tackle Joe Buissereth, right tackle Jyrell Stewart, and center Agustin Amendola should give the team’s skill players room to thrive on the field and time to develop.
“That’s a nice building block for us,” said Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor.
Litvak, a strong runner with an accurate arm, will have plenty of weapons to work with, especially at wide receiver. Luis Rodriguez will try to build off his five-touchdown post-season. and Michael Tud also got some time last season. Holy Cross transfer Prince Klutsey is the frontrunner at running back, but O’Connor said that position is still up for grabs. The Railsplitters also added impact receiver transfer Justice Seales from Bishop Ford, which closed this spring. He has already caught the attention of his new coach.
“We are very lucky that he fell into our lap,” O’Connor said. “Tall kid, great hands, great routes, great football knowledge, great everything.”
Lincoln opens the season Sept. 5 at 7 pm against Tottenville in a rematch of last year’s title game. O’Connor said having a game like that speeds up the learning process in order to be ready to take on one of the league’s fellow elite programs.
The players see it as a chance to make an early statement. They can show the city that while this is not the same team as last year’s championship squad, it remains one of the favorites to bring home the title again.
“That’s better for us,” Fleming said. “Us playing them is showing the city that this new team. We are the real deal.”