Here’s Rick Carpiniello’s column on why this championship game – on this day – has so much meaning to New Rochelle QB Khalil Edney:
NEW ROCHELLE — Khalil Edney was online before the football season, checking out his New Rochelle team’s schedule, and then the dates for the postseason. When he got to the date for the Class AA state championship game, Nov. 24, it was very familiar.
It is, after all, tattooed on his arm.
On Nov. 24, 2006, his mother, Akilah Keisha Taylor, lost her battle with cancer at age 33.
“That pretty much gave me a goal to get to Syracuse,” said Edney, the Huguenots’ outstanding quarterback.
“Getting there is done. Now it’s time to get more.”
Edney, who also has the words “Momma’s Boy” on his arm, will play for the state title Saturday at the Carrier Dome, against defending AA champ Orchard Park.
That’s why Edney, 17, broke down after his heroic, nearly miraculous effort in New Rochelle’s comeback win over Shaker in the final minute of the state semifinal last week.
“It’s going to be stressful for me,” the senior co-captain said. “It’s going to be an emotional day. It’s very emotional for my family because they’re watching me, and I know my mom’s watching down on me.”
Then he added, “I was very close to my mom. We didn’t have the mother-son relationship. We had a friendship.”
It was his mother who gave him the name Khalil, which in Arabic means “friend,” and he has certainly become that — and more — to his teammates.
Edney’s father, Lewis Sr., still struggles with the emotions of the loss, and he wonders how Khalil will deal with the anniversary.
“He was close (with her),” the father of four said. “And he lost her at a young age.
“So far, he’s been good with it. He’s been coping with it. His older brother (Lewis Jr., the former New Ro quarterback) has been talking to him about it. As he gets older and mature now, he’s starting to understand.
“The thing is, when the day comes, I’ve got to see … ”
It was Khalil’s grandmother who gave him the nickname “Pop” when he was a baby. His dad’s not sure of the origin, but that is how everybody knows Khalil.
Lewis Edney Jr. talks quarterbacking with Pop all the time (they have a third QB in the family, ninth-grader D-Waynne, on the freshman team).
Lewis Jr. played on the Carrier Dome stage, too, in the AA state championship game in 2009. Khalil was a ninth-grader, and he watched as his brother suffered a broken ankle and New Rochelle lost 14-7.
“When you grow up in the program, you’re in a family atmosphere, and you live with the ups and downs,” New Rochelle coach Lou DiRienzo said. “I’m sure Pop was as hurt as his brother, playing in the state championship, as he would have been if it was his ankle that was broken.”
He sure was.
“Seeing him go down, it was heartbreaking to me because he really wanted it badly,” Khalil said. “He couldn’t finish it out. So it’s kind of an honor to go back and win it for him.”
Khalil Edney is New Rochelle’s best chance of winning this game because of his tremendous growth this season.
“I guess the best way to say it is, as a junior, he was a good athlete,” DiRienzo said. “As a senior, he’s a good quarterback. He has total command of the offense — he understands the protections, he understands the coverages. He has total command in the huddle, and he’s a big part of why we’re here right now.
“We’ve had a nice balance of run and pass, and we’ve got some kids who go up and catch the ball. It’s his leadership … he’s been riding the offensive linemen, and we’ve been able to run the ball against bigger, superior teams. I think that has a lot to do with him.”
Khalil takes his leadership role seriously — he’s the only player on the team who had previously played in a state tournament game, in 2010. Joe Clarke, who caught the winning touchdown pass last week, is a co-captain, but he said Edney “pretty much is the only captain we have on this team, being on the team (since he was) a sophomore.
“And he’s just grown to be a great quarterback.”
A pretty mature kid.
“Very mature for 17,” Lewis Sr. said. “Strangers come to me and tell me how mature he is.”
Edney has dared to dream since he was 7 years old, first of being the New Rochelle starting quarterback, then of winning a state title.
“When I (became the QB) my junior year, that was one goal that I completed,” he said. “I just kept going and building on and building on. The dream is to win it. Now that I’m here, I have to complete it.”