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Orange Wave of emotion

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Taji Randle played football for Thomas Jefferson from 1991 to 1995 and when he graduated from the East New York school, he didn’t have a victory to show for it.

So it was no surprise that Randle, now the Orange Wave’s offensive coordinator, was beaming with pride Sunday afternoon. No. 3 Thomas Jefferson had just beaten No. 4 August Martin, 29-28, in the PSAL Bowl division championship game at Midwood Athletic Complex. It was the school’s first football title, on any level, since 1975.

“We started back the tradition,” said Randle, whose gray Orange Wave hoodie was soaked from a Gatorade shower. “We got a long way to go, but we’ll get there.”

And it took awhile for Jefferson (10-1) to hold that trophy Saturday, too. August Martin (7-4) made things interesting late in the game.

The Falcons got within 29-20 on a Thomas Greyer 1-yard quarterback keeper with 29.1 seconds left. An extra point would have made it a one-possession game, but Jefferson defensive end Maurice George blocked the kick. That loomed even larger when Martin recovered an onside kick and scored again, on a 20-yard pass from Greyer to Shane Phillips with 9.7 seconds left to make it 29-28.

“That was big,” Jefferson coach Stephen Edwards said.

This time, Jefferson’s Prince Jacobs recovered the onside kick. Quarterback Ricky Joseph kneeled down, the clock ran out and the celebration began. The Orange Wave cheerleaders rushed onto the field. A few minutes later, the Jefferson players took the Bowl trophy and ran with it toward their large support system in the bleachers.

“It feels like about time,” wide receiver/safety Mark Thomas said. “We brought it back for the veterans that did it in [1975].”

Thomas intercepted Greyer in the fourth quarter. He was just one of the many heroes the Orange Wave had Sunday, and the entire season for that matter. Running back Kadeem Bailey was near unstoppable, rushing for 187 yards on 26 carries.

“Kadeem is our jewel,” Edwards said. “You can’t stop somebody that wants it more than you.”

Jefferson started scoring when Joseph hit Thomas in the flat for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:28 left in the first quarter. Martin, like it did all game, came right back to tie it on Anthony Duzant’s 19-yard rumble with 2:15 left in the first.

The Orange Wave went into the half with a 13-7 lead courtesy of Bailey’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 3:32 left. They extended their lead to 21-7 when Joseph (5-of-8, 123 yards) found Tristan Sargant for a 37-yard touchdown with 4:41 remaining in the third.

Martin got within a touchdown, 21-14, when Greyer hit Phillips for their first touchdown with four seconds left in the third. Bailey put things out of reach, though, with a 25-yard touchdown run with 9:09 remaining. Jefferson had been primarily a passing team all year, but Randle and Edwards featured Bailey on Sunday.

“We told him before the game, if something goes wrong with the passing game, we’re going to him,” Thomas said.

Bailey, Thomas, Joseph, running back/linebacker Shawn Thompson and many other Jefferson players started with the Renegades, a Brooklyn-based youth league team. Edwards estimated that 10 of the team’s seniors have been playing together since they were 5 years old and the rest have been together for at least four years.

“We know each other,” Bailey said. “We developed trust.”

The Renegades, who Edwards and Randle coach for, and the Chiefs, another Brooklyn youth team, have become feeder programs for Jefferson. For that reason, and many others, the Orange Wave are titleholders again %u2013 with a solid chance to move up to the City Championship division in the future.

“I don’t have words, I don’t,” Edwards said. %u2026 “Jeff is coming back.”

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