Triumph of Cougar Football


After a disappointing non-football season last year, everybody in Cougar Nation, was looking forward to this season. Players were ready to get bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter- so when it was game time, they wouldn’t be disappointed again. As March 2020 came around players were lifting weights, watching film from games, and going to school. Conversations about a “new disease” were going around since December 2019. Nobody really put too much thought into it. But, as the months passed, Covid-19 kept spreading worldwide. In February, the first case of COVID was announced in NYC. There were now rumors building up that the school was going to shut down soon, because there was talk of a worldwide pandemic.

As March 2020 came, it was evident that the school was closing. Everybody was talking about it, from students to teachers and staff members. In March, I remember my Science teacher telling the class that the school will probably get shut down in the next few days. What do you know, 2 days later on March 11 it was announced the school would be closing. Everyone was uncertain of how the school was going to go on from this point. Football players were concerned. How were they going to get better in the offseason, when they were forced to stay home? They were worried how long the quarantine would last. Fast forward, a few months into this pandemic and school was being done solely online. The date kept extending on when we were allowed to go back to school. Seniors were getting worried, they weren’t going to play their senior season. 

Fast forward to January 2021, seniors sadly didn’t get to play their final season as high school football players. For the remaining football players, thoughts of a spring season was in the air. Players were now going out to parks to get some drills in, while still staying safe by wearing their masks. Everybody was yearning for football to be back. In February, players, parents, and coaches were fed up and wanted to get their message out to New York City. On February 6, at the Barclay’s Center, lots of people showed up to protest and help bring back sports. Everybody knew nothing really was going to come from the protest, but it was a step in the right direction. Hopes of a spring season started to fade, as it was now becoming too late. The school year was on the verge of ending and no news of getting back on the field. 

The football players still had hope of a fall season as summer was beginning. They would continue to workout and work on drills- anytime they could to stay in shape. In June, football players found out great news delivered by Coach Klyap. In the email, Coach Klyap informed the team- it’s finally time for football again. He explained that we needed to fill out our paperwork to be able to get on the field- informing us that football camp would start on August 23.  Football players were excited, and obsessed, with the idea of football being back. From this moment on, they would dedicate the rest of their summer to getting ready for the beginning of camp. As August 23rd rolled around, all the players were lined up at the front of FDR High School awaiting the coaches, to let them in, so they could begin to play ball. As the month of August progressed, the players got their gear and went to work. They started to get back in the football groove again, everyday getting better awaiting game week. On Monday September 12th game week started! As we were approaching our first game of the season, I asked  starting linebacker/wide receiver Ronaldo Collado how he felt to be back playing football, after all the troubles the pandemic brought. With a serious tone in his voice he began. 

“I never thought I would be strapping up my pads on a Friday night again. That thought hurt me, but it was something I had to live with, because I knew other families and people were going through worse. I never stopped hoping though, and now that it is happening, it almost feels like a dream. Football is more than just a sport, you build a bond with those you step on the field with… and when that bond ended abruptly, causing us to miss a whole season, it devastated many. But, now we are back and better than ever. We are striving for greatness.”

Just like that, we were ready for those Friday nights lights. 

It was now game day. Every player was wearing their fresh and crisp new jerseys. The hallway lights bouncing off  that Cougar red! Coaches and players alike were all anxious to hear that whistle, and get ready to bang full speed. Throughout the week, our opponent Fredrick Douglass Academy (FDA) was talking a lot of trash. Would they back it up, or would they be shut up tonight. It was time to find out, it was kick off time!

Throughout the evening, leaking into the night, the game was close all around.  First score on the board was for the FDR Cougars as Kevin Peguero, scooped the ball up on a fumble by FDA- and ran it all the way for a touchdown. FDA came back and scored a touchdown of their own. It was now late in the 4th quarter. The score was 6-7 FDA in the lead. There was not a lot of time left on the clock. It was score or go home for the Cougars. Now in the huddle, the play was called and the Cougars were now lining up at the line of scrimmage. As the ball was snapped, the ball was then given to Diego Monge on a jet sweep. With a full head of stem and blockers in front, Diego was able to get it into the end-zone for a late touchdown. The game was not over yet though, there was still enough time on the clock for FDA to retaliate back with a late touchdown of their own, to run away with the game. So, the Cougars had to lock up and not let FDA score. As the clock was winding down, FDA was running out of chances to win the game. With the last 10 second, FDA threw it in the center of the field. It was caught by a player, and he ran trying to get a touchdown. However, eventually, the receiver was brought down to the floor to end the game with a close win for the Cougars. Final score FDR 14 FDA 7.  It was such a great feeling to come out of the pandemic with a victory. To all, the struggle that Covid -19 brought the FDR Cougars football team, they didn’t let it phase them as they pulled out the W.

The rest of the games were no challenge for the football team. FDR vs Petrides score 28 – 7. Next game FDR vs Benjamin Cardozo scored 36 – 14. The game after that FDR, vs East Harlem Pride- score 34 – 6. Now it was week 5. It was going to be a short week since there was no school on Monday, due to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Therefore, the week started on  Tuesday- practice was not great. The team was all over the place, playing sloppy and uncoordinated. Coaches were concerned since the Cougars were going to face Franklin K. Lane on Friday, and it would be the toughest challenge for the team yet. As Thursday arrived, a starting wide receiver/linebacker told the team he was sick and couldn’t come to practice or the game. Now the team was down a starter and would have to change around their offense and defense accordingly, to fill the gaps. Nonetheless, the team was confident that even without a starter playing, they would still come out with a victory against their toughest opponent yet.

As the Friday night lights came on, the Cougars were ready to dominate. The Cougars played hard to the final whistle. In the end when the clock ran out, the Franklin K. Lane Knights were sent home to the graveyard with a loss. The Cougars stayed undefeated, despite a tough week of practice and challenges with their starting offense and defense. 

What a journey the Cougars have been on since March of 2020- a pandemic being announced, leading to not having a 2020 season. Then, not having a spring season despite other football programs in other states playing in the spring. Finally, given the green light in June, all leads to the present day with a 7 – 0 season record. I don’t think if you asked any of the members of the football team, they would have imagined a season like this. They would all say no way. But, they got what they hoped for. Cougar football was undated in the regular season. This season has been electric, but we can’t stop now.  Writing this, nobody knows what the future holds. One thing is for sure though, that ring would look good on our fingers.