BY LARRY FLEISHER
A day after Flushing High School’s season ended with a blowout playoff loss against Lincoln for the second straight season, coach Jim DeSantis lamented some of the things that went wrong.
The Nov. 22 31-6 quarterfinal loss to Lincoln included three first half fumbles, including two where running backs were stripped from behind, giving Lincoln short fields. It also included a defense that gave up four touchdowns to star running back Luis Rodriguez.
And while it was a disappointing ending for Flushing, it was another opportunity for DeSantis to show how the program has grown recently.
In the last four years, the Red Devils have compiled a 28-15 record. In the last two seasons, Flushing has gone 17-7 with three of those losses coming against Lincoln and another coming against Erasmus.
So while the fumbles were regrettable, DeSantis is optimistic about the state of the program. He maintains that view even if Flushing has not quite become the destination for elite players.
“It’s good,” DeSantis said. “We’re not at the point where kids are coming to us because we’re Flushing. At Lincoln that happens and Erasmus Hall that happens and we’re also not going out to get kids. That’s the bottom line. We get what we get and we try to coach them.
“It’s just different. I’m not mad. We know that we’re more of a middle-of-the-road team than an elite team, and they’re an elite team. There are three or maybe four elite teams that are going
to reload every year because they get numbers and they get a lot of kids in the school.”
Most of the players who come to Flushing are from the Jamaica Bulldogs Youth Program, which began in 2004 with two teams and now competes in the Big Apple Youth Football League. DeSantis said that he is not going to seek the other programs out and that he can sell potential players on the success that the program has had.
“Coaching-wise, we think we’re there,” DeSantis said. “Obviously you can’t win without players. We only have one youth program sending us kids in Queens and that’s the Jamaica Bulldogs. So with that being said, all the better kids are leaving the borough or going elsewhere, and I know I can’t compete with the Catholic schools, but what I do know is I graduate all my kids and we coach them just as well as anybody if not better than most.”
Recently Flushing has been in the news for the wrong reasons when the city decided to close the school in April 2012 before reversing the decision two months later. Last year the school’s graduation rate in four years was 57 percent, according to the Department of Education’s High School quality snapshot that was made available to the public online.
For the football program, DeSantis estimates that the graduation rate is about 95 percent and tries to use that as a selling point while competing for players with the likes of Lincoln and Erasmus.
“I think these coaches from the youth programs need to get a clue to realize that we’re a viable option,” DeSantis said. “The knock on the school is bad and parents see that the school graduation rate is 50 percent, but they need to know that the football team graduation rate is about 95 percent. If you come with me and stay with me for four years, you’re going to graduate on time and go to college. That’s it in a nutshell, but I think it starts with the coaches in the youth program.
Among those players going to college is quarterback Terrence Chavis, who is one of 17 seniors that DeSantis will be replacing next fall. Chavis was a three-year starter that came to Flushing from the Bulldogs and threw 49 touchdown passes and for over 4,000 yards.
Chavis has drawn some interest from Davidson, which competes in the FCS Pioneer League. Other schools have expressed interest, but part of the offseason will be spent seeing if there are other schools beyond.
In the meantime, DeSantis will keep working to keep players in Queens while hoping he can find the next versions of Chavis and wide receiver and defensive back Keron Hermitt and continue building up the program that he began in 2005 on a developmental level.
In less than a decade, Flushing has ascended from only junior varsity to the highest level of competition in the PSAL. The school has also produced a pro in Jay Bromley, who went from being only recruited by Stony Brook to starring at Syracuse and getting drafted by the New York Giants.