The Pleasantville High School football team must confront something it hasn’t had to deal with in the recent past – expectations.
The Greyhounds are predicted to be one of the top teams in South Jersey Group II. Pleasantville finished 7-3 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Pleasantville was 3-47 in the five seasons before coach Chris Sacco took over the program in 2015.
“We’d rather have the expectations and hopefully have to fulfill them,” Sacco said, “then have no expectations and be another team. We have a really good group of hard-working kids, and we harp n them about that. If you read the newspaper or read an article, that’s not going to win you a championship. We still have a lot to prove.”
There is plenty of reasons for the Greyhounds optimism. Pleasantville returns numerous standouts.
Mohamed Toure is one of South Jersey’s top college prospects. More than 20 colleges, most notably Rutgers and Temple, have offered the senior linebacker and running back scholarships.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Toure made 93 tackles on defense. He rushed for 909 yards and nine touchdowns. Toure even kicked two field goals.
“we want leadership out of (Toure),” Sacco said. “We want him doing the right things and showing these younger guys the ropes. On the field, he’s gained 15 to 20 pounds, he’s gotten taller. He is going to be what he is this year – a great football player.”
Jabril Shakur, a 6-0, 175-pound defensive back and running back, has committed to Monmouth University. Shakur made 69 tackles and intercepted four passes.
Sahmir Jones returns as quarterback. The senior threw for 1,156 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for 391 yards and five scores last season.
“He’s a playmaker,” Saco said of Jones. “He probably going to pay some defense for us. A guy like that we want to get on the field as much as possible.”
Wide receivers Elijah Glover and Brian Stalworth each caught five touchdown passes. Junior Sierra, a 6-2, 285-pound senior, is a four-year starter on the offensive and defensive lines. Melvin Timberlake is another senior lineman.
“The biggest thing we have to do is be mentally tough, and not (committing) turnovers and making the game more difficult than it needs to be,” Sacco said. “There’s some really good teams in Group II. I know our guys are looking forward to the challenge.”
The Greyhounds will get an immediate idea of just how good they are. They open the season at home on Aug. 31 against defending South Jersey Group II champion Haddonfield. The spectra of that opener has helped the Greyhounds get ready for the season.
“Opening up with the defending champions, gives you an opportunity to get (our players) excited for seven or eight months,” Sacco said. “We’re not opening up with an 0-10 team. We’re opening up with one of the best, and we need to perform our best every day.”