Their quest for a fifth consecutive Northeast Football Alliance carries means more meaning for the Troy Fighting Irish.
The players have banded together for a fallen brother, dedicating the season to their former quarterback, Jahmel Tarver. The former Watervliet High standout has been in a coma the past six months, after falling into a coma during surgery to repair an Achilles’ tendon tear. He suffered the injury playing indoor football.
“This team is committed, because of Jahmel Tarver,” said former Albany Academy standout running back Everett Tune, in his first year with the semi-pro team. “I never met the guy, but dealing with all the players here, everybody is playing for him.
“Even a guy on the other team tonight was asking about him, when he saw he wasn’t on the team. He was well-loved by the league, and he’s well-loved by the team. It grew on me.
“Now, I want to do everything in my power for this team to make sure we win.”
“We just want to keep it going. We’re dedicating the season to one of our fallen players, Jahmel Tarver. Like I tell the guys, we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves this year.”
Tune is certainly doing his part. The league’s leading rusher scored four touchdowns in Saturday night’s 65-14 win at Schenectady High School over the Utica Yard Dawgs. Tune displayed a combination of speed and power that left would-be tacklers flailing at air as the unbeaten Fighting Irish went to 4-0, 5-0 overall.
“He’s been a great addition to the team,” said Troy coach Pete Porcelli. “He’s trying to move up, but we’re going to need him down the stretch.”
Both Tune and Porcelli, who has coached the team since its inception, cite the players’ dedication as a key to this season’s success. Three of their games to date have been here, but Tune pointed out a non-league win at Plattsburgh two weeks ago as a good sign.
“That’s very hard, to get guys to away games. It’s tough getting transportation, but the guys are committed,” he said. “A guy like [defensive lineman] Joe Jack, he lives in Connecticut and he drives here to play. We get to Plattsburgh, and he’s the first guy there.
“That shows how committed these guys are. There are a million teams he could play for in Connecticut or Massachusetts, but he’s driving through all those places to play with us.”
“We’ve got a pretty good group of returning core guys that have played for me in high school, so they know the system,” said Porcelli, who will return as the head coach at Hoosic Valley this fall. “We’ve got more guys this year that have played college football, and that shows in the quality of play.
“Joe played at Western Michigan. We played against him in a national championship game. He called me up in April, and I asked him if he wasn’t sure he’d rather play for a team in the city. He said he liked our organization and he’d rather come up and play with us. He’s been a trooper. He’s been to every game. We’re lucky to have him.”
Porcelli has coached several high school teams in Section II since relocating from Long Island after playing for the Albany Firebirds indoor team. He took Lansingburgh to six consecutive Super Bowls, with a power running offense led by backs such as Kenny Youngs and NyQuan McGirt, both of whom have played with the Irish.
“I’m really cool with Kenny Youngs and NyQuan, and we’d hang out and talk, and think about how great it would be to play on the same team,” said Tune.
“I think the sky is the limit for us. When we’re clicking, like we were tonight, our offense is tough to stop. We’ve had a quarter or two where we’re stopped or we’re stuck, and then they other team gets tired, and we get some energy.”
Utica 0 0 7 7 — 14
Troy 26 23 16 0 — 65
T — Deering 17 run (Keels run).
T — Deering 7 run (pass failed).
T — Tune 22 run (Gordon run),
T — Viscosi 33 fumble return (pass failed).
T — Keels 1 run (Deering run).
T — Tune 34 run (Hill run).
T — Deering 1 run (Hill run).
T — Tune 10 run (Valentin run).
U — Mason 2 run (LaMont kick).
T — Tune 40 run (Deering run).
U — Crane 2 run (LaMont kick).