Reis Hoxha wants another kick in the playoffs.
The Academy at Palumbo Senior got a taste of postseason football during its sophomore year, as the Griffins won their division and won two Public League playoff games before ending the season.
All the work the Griffins have done through the 2022 season is supported by inspiration from another playoff run.
“We felt it once and we want to do it again,” said Hoxha, who hails from Port Richmond. “It’s been fun. We’re just getting back on the field together and trying to get our chemistry back. There’s a lot of new faces this year. We’ve lost about six players (to graduation), so it’s definitely useful to make some games and improve and prove to ourselves the every game.”
The Griffins had mixed results in their first four games, but they look like they’re about to turn the corner. A 3-0 win over Bodine on opening day set the pace and a 9-1 win over Franklin Learning Center showed just how dominant they can be. But the Griffins are still learning some lessons early in the season in one-goal losses to Olney and Bartram.
“We think we have a good chance of making the playoffs,” said senior Denilso Diaz, who lives near 10th and Oregon. “We went into overtime with Olney and that was a new thing for us. I’ve been playing for four years and this has never happened.”
The regular season is all about learning and Hoxha, Diaz and teammate of four years Carlos Perez are the guys who will get the experience.
“It’s new to me as I’ve never been in this role before,” said Perez, who lives in the Mercado Italiano neighborhood. “I’m in the back with two new guys on defense and I’m just trying to show them how it’s done.”
In the first four games, Academy at Palumbo showed plenty of offensive sparks from all corners as seven different players scored at least one goal, with Hoxha maintaining the team lead with four thanks to a hat-trick against Franklin Learning Center. .
“Everyone was passing me the ball and I had a lot of chances,” said Hoxha. “When everyone creates so many chances, everything goes well.”
They hope things keep going well. The Griffins are young, aside from the senior three, but there’s a lot of optimism about this season and beyond.
“We have a very young team,” said Licínio Ferreira, who started his fourth year as the team’s coach. “We only have three seniors and a lot of ninth graders, which is great for the future of the program, but they are raw. They have a little to learn about positioning, but I am very confident.”
Conference programming begins at high speed in the coming weeks. The Griffins are welcoming the challenge.
“Everyone is playing really well,” Diaz said. “I like the way our chemistry has been building up since we started playing. I really like how we are playing.”