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Young yet confident Sharks find themselves in deep end

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Everywhere he looks, Rashid Armand sees new faces — on offense, defense and special teams. Before training camp, he needed a media guide to get to know his new teammates.

But Armand doesn’t want any sympathy, even if he is the lone returning starter for Sheepshead Bay.

“All that means to me is I got to be at my best,” said the 6-foot-2, 298-pound defensive lineman/offensive guard who had a team-high 65 tackles and four sacks last fall. “I got to be an example for them. When they look at me and they are tired, they have to find strength in me.”

There is no telling if Sheepshead Bay will keep its winning tradition alive – the Sharks have reached the postseason 16 years in a row — considering they graduated 21 of 22 starters.

Quarterback Adler Thony was on the varsity last year, but he served as Deejay White’s backup. Junior running backs Devin Lee and Romerio Vincent will split time in the backfield in place of graduated stars Naquan Alexander and Devontai Carlie; Vincent was on the JV last year while Lee received few carries on varsity. Two more juniors, Ricardo Appleton and Quran Anderson will battle it out at fullback and could start on defense.

Snyder expects several sophomores to receive plenty of playing time, notably center Rashaad Coward, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder. He could also see time on the defensive line alongside Armand, and bookends Sidy Doumbia and Nijose Solomon, both of them 6-foot-5 speed rushers.

“It will be an interesting season for us,” Snyder said. “We’ll see what these kids can do. They have to grow up very fast.

Said Thony: “They listen and learn; that’s a good thing.”

In an ironic twist, those are the qualities Snyder likes in Thony, his dual option under center. The 5-foot-10 senior attempted just two passes last year, but already knows the system well.

“He spent a lot of time watching and learning what’s going on last year,” the coach said. “Hopefully he’ll grow and get even better.”

Snyder isn’t expecting smooth sailing. In Thursday’s four-team scrimmage with Curtis, DeWitt Clinton and New Utrecht, he saw major mistakes. Defensive players lined up out of position, for example, and wide receivers ran incorrect routes. The effort wasn’t always there, causing one assistant to tell the Sharks that Friday’s practice would consist of one drill and one drill only: wind sprints.

Snyder said the onus is on his entire 45-man roster, a number that is up significantly from recent seasons.

“We need to lean on everybody,” he said.

Roster depth will enable him to go less two-way players. He isn’t putting pressure on Armand, by far his most experienced player. In fact, the pressure is on others to adapt quickly. In a similar vein, Thony said it everyone has to be a leader in his own way, although the younger players clearly look up to Armand, who has drawn interest from Rutgers, Syracuse, Connecticut, Maryland and Penn State.

“If one person slacks, everybody has to get on them,” Thony said.

Inexperience and youth be damned, expectations are no different for the Sharks: playoffs or bust. They hope to be playing deep into November, just like the previous 16 teams.

“We’re not gonna be the ones to break tradition,” Armand boldly predicted.

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