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Tilden on its way up again after school restructuring

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Eric Waterman has read the press clippings about Canarsie, South Shore and Columbus. All of them have struggled with their schools restructuring after multiple new schools were formed in the same building. South Shore and Columbus had to move down into the Bowl division, because they were no longer competitive at the highest level.

Well, Waterman and his players have gone through the exact thing at Tilden. It reached its worst point in 2008 when the Blue Devils didn’t win a single game. But things are changing in East Flatbush.

Tilden’s huge 28-6 win against Truman in PSAL Bowl division football Saturday was the latest example.

“We’ve been getting it done with the support of our principals and the staff in the school,” Waterman said. “We’ve been able to bounce out of it.”

The victory over Truman (6-2), which came into the game in second place, gives Tilden a 5-3 record and is the program’s signature win in what very well could be its first winning season since 2006. Senior running back David Marshall ran for 135 yards on seven carries with a touchdown and Clayton Crooks had a 60-yard interception return for a score.

Both of those players were regulars on that 0-9 team two years ago. They could have easily quit and given up on football, Waterman said, but they persevered.

“It was a lot for them to endure, because they were young-minded and young from a football perspective,” he said. “They’ve bought in.”

The culture around Tilden football has completely changed. The program started to go south after Waterman graduated in 1999. Peter Waterman (no relation) guided the Blue Devils for nine years prior and they were a playoff team in 1998, beating teams like Fort Hamilton and New Utrecht.

When he retired, Tilden’s success waned.

But when the program was in danger of folding completely in 2003, Peter Waterman returned. Eric Waterman, who was still in college at the time, followed, as did many Tilden football alumni. The Blue Devils went 9-0 in 2005 and 6-3 in 2006 before another near death blow: the school’s restructuring.

Peter Waterman stepped down as head coach after the 0-9 season, figuring he would lose his job in the school due to the changes. Instead, he’s kept his job and is Eric Waterman’s top assistant and confidante.

“We call him the godfather of the team,” Eric Waterman said.

Every single coach on his staff now is a Tilden alum, guys like Chester Joseph — “the heart of the program,” Eric Waterman said — Michael Barksdale and Sean Fortune. The group has started the Brooklyn Cowboys non-profit youth football program and six of those players are on Tilden’s undefeated JV team this year.

“We got through the storm,” Eric Waterman said. “Now we need to come out on fire and get it done.”

A win next week against Jamaica will ensure Tilden of that winning season. On top of that, the Blue Devils have just seven seniors. Freshman center Damian Broomes is 6-foot-2, 350 pounds and already receiving college interest. With their powerhouse JV, the future looks extremely bright.

“I’m excited about this year and what we have the potential to do,” Waterman said, “but also about the years to come.”

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