While former Nassau Community College defensive back Rasul Douglas was busy helping the Philadelphia Eagles capture their first-ever Super Bowl last season, new head coach Jamel Ramsay went to work getting a storied football program back to its winning ways.
Ramsay, a former standout at LIU-Post who served as the receivers coach there following a successful run as head coach at Port Washington High School, guided the Lions to a 5-4 mark a year after they sputtered to a 1-7 finish. And he’s looking for greater success in 2018.
“I would’ve liked to finish 6-3, but we took some positive steps,” Ramsay said. “Nassau has a tremendous football tradition and we’re looking to right the ship. It’s an exciting time. I feel we’ve upgraded at every position. We want to improve and win all the close games.”
The Lions will be challenged out of the gate by ASA College, which visits Mitchel Athletic Complex on Aug. 25 at 1 p.m. “Every game is just as important as the next, but we’d love to start off on the right foot,” Ramsay said. “We don’t fear anyone on our schedule, but we respect each opponent.”
Nassau CC scored at a 35.7 ppg clip last season while using three quarterbacks, including former Freeport High School star Rashad Tucker for seven games. Tucker began last season as a starting wide receiver, a role he’ll assume again this fall with signal-caller Steven Genova returning from a wrist injury that forced him out of action for all of 2017.
Tucker rushed for 448 yards and 10 touchdowns, went 31 of 50 passing for 309 yards and three scores with no interceptions, and caught five balls for 52 yards and one touchdown. “Rashad’s the most dynamic guy on the field no matter where we use him,” Ramsay said. “He can cause a lot of chaos.”
Tucker’s former high school teammate, Jaelin Hood, will also be split-wide for the Lions, along with former Malverne High School product Maurice Teachey. “Hood and Teachey will allow us to open the offense even more,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay said Genova is among the most cerebral athletes he’s been around and is expecting big things from the pocket passer. Last year, the Lions passed for 1,979 yards and 18 touchdowns. “He makes good reads and has a great arm,” Ramsay explained. “People are going to know who he is within the first few weeks.”
Tackle Justin Calderon, a MacArthur High School grad, is the lone returning starter on the offensive front but Ramsay has high expectations for a group that includes freshmen Erroll Walker and Jake Pole.
Nassau had 25 rushing touchdowns in 2017 and will look to keep the ground attack churning behind locals Chris Collier (Lawrence) and Ayje Grayson (Freeport) as well as Jeremiah Nelson.
On the defensive side, the Lions return a handful of statistical leaders including pass rusher Tevon Joseph (10.5 sacks, 35 tackles), outside linebacker Stephen Barongi (44 tackles, 2 interceptions) and shutdown cornerback Jordan Jones (6 interceptions.)
Ramsay employs four linemen and wants to see the sack number (23) increase with high motor guys like Joseph, Tyreek Noble (4.5 sacks, 22 tackles) and John Royal leading the charge. Barongi brings no shortage of intensity to the unit and is joined at linebacker by Nick Hunter and Michael Brooks, while Jones will constantly draw the top assignment in the secondary every week.
Ramsay took over special teams coaching duties and has plenty of talent to work with. He said punter Justin Norcini (MacArthur) and kicker Billy Rousakis (Garden City) will help the Lions control field position. Options in the return game include playmakers Tucker and Hood.
Sat. Aug. 25 ASA College 1 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 1 at Hudson Valley 1 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 8 Monroe 1 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 22 Lackawanna 1 p.m.
Sun. Oct. 7 at Cornell JV 1 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 13 DuPage 1 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 19 at Army Prep 7 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 27 Navy Prep 1 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 3 at Hocking 1 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 10 at Erie CC 1 p.m.