- Last Updated: 4:48 AM, June 18, 2012
- Posted: 2:01 AM, June 18, 2012
Shawn O’Connor learned everything he needed to know about linebacker Richard Jones and Mount St. Michael from the first New York City practice. The team was working with no pads and Denzel Duchenne took a run up the right side.
“Jones clothes-lined him and took him down,” the NYC and Lincoln head coach said. “He went, ‘He didn’t slow down. I’m not slowing down.’ Right from there we knew he was going to be one of our guys who we want to be physical.”
Jones is one of four Mount players on the New York City roster, representing arguably the city’s best defense. He’s joined by defensive backs Najae Brown and Bruce Parker Jr., and defensive end Omari Manhertz, who will attend Division II American International in the fall.
The close-knit group gets one more chance to showcase their talents together when they take the field against the Long Island senior all-stars in the 17th annual Empire Challenge Tuesday night at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, L.I.
“It’s awesome,” Jones said. We have been playing together since freshmen year. We had no idea we were going to make it, but last year as juniors we were like this is our goal to make this game and we are here.”
The game brings special significance for Jones. It will likely be his last competitive football game as he will attend Quinnipiac University, which doesn’t have a team, for its five-year Masters of Arts and Teaching program..
“Every great thing comes to an end,” Jones said. “I’ve loved my year so far.”
It’s one the group wants to end with a New York City win and by making their presence felt. They’ve already done so this week in practice, particularly on Sunday. Brown, who also played quarterback for the Mountaineers, picked off Poly Prep’s signal caller Kevin Gebon in the end zone and Manhertz knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage, among other impact plays.
Mount’s defense was tied with Xaverian for the second-least points allowed with 158 and had an eight takeaway game in a 43-0 win over Holy Cross. Brown was a first team All-City selection by The Post on offense, Manhertz and Parker were chosen as first team defense selections and Jones was on the second team defense. Parker, who will attend Nassau Community College next year, missed the last two days of practice to run track & field at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in North Carolina.
“I think we are going to have a huge impact because we can all change the game in a different way,” said Brown, who will attend upstate prep school Trinity Pawling.
He and Manhertz also played in the Upstate/Downstate game, only wetting their appetites to play in this contest and help them get back into football shape. The Empire Challenge will be even more memorable because the four of them are getting one final contest together representing Mount and New York City.
“This is special,” Manhertz said. “This might never happen again, playing with each other after playing all our high school years [together]. … To play with our own teammates is special.”Follow @NYPostsports