College senior athletes around the country were offered the option of playing an extra year of football and the 2016 graduate of Harlem High School Josh Black will play an extra year for Syracuse, University.

By Bob Balgemann


The road trip to South Bend, Ind. Dec. 5 didn’t bring an end to Josh Black’s four-year football career at Syracuse University.

COVID-19 presented seniors around the country with the option of playing an extra year of football and the 2016 graduate of Harlem High School has decided to do just that.

His letter to fans on why he made that decision appears elsewhere in this week’s issue of the Post Journal.

It was thought when he played against No. 2 Notre Dame that it would be his last college game. Starting at left defensive end, he made the first tackle of the contest and for the bulk of the first half Notre Dame ran left, away from the 6-foot-3-inch, 282-pound Black. In all, he was credited with two solo stops, one of them a four-yard loss, in the 45-21 loss.

In his four-year career at Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member Syracuse, he played in 48 games and was credited with 120 tackles, 18 of them for losses; 7 1/2 sacks, two fumble recoveries, two blocked kicks and one interception. His blocked field goal came against Louisville on Nov. 19, 2018, and was the team’s first since 2013.   

He started every game for the Orange during the past two seasons.

A few months after graduating from Harlem, Black made an immediate impact at Syracuse. As a freshman that fall, he played at defensive end in 10 games, the last nine as a starter. He was credited with 21 tackles, 11 of them solos, and 1 1/2 sacks. He had a season-high four tackles with half-a-sack Oct. 1, 2016, against Notre Dame, then had another four-tackle game against Clemson on Nov. 5.

As a sophomore in 2017, he played in four games, missing the last nine because of a knee injury suffered against LSU on Sept. 23. That injury resulted in his receiving a medical waiver for that season.

As a red-shirt sophomore the following fall, he played nose tackle while sharing snaps with McKinley Williams. During that campaign he registered 14 tackles, 10 of them solo, one for a loss and one fumble recovery. He tied his season-high four tackles in games with Clemson and Wake Forest. This was the year when he blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt.

Huge season

Black had a huge season in 2018, starting all 12 games at nose tackle and recording 39 tackles, 18 of them solos and six for losses, to go with four sacks, one fumble recovery, one blocked kick and one pass breakup. He made at least one tackle in each game, with multiple tackles in 11 of 12 games.

He was the ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performance in the 24-0 season opener against Liberty. He collected four tackles in that outing, a personal-best two sacks and one fumble recovery. He had four more tackles the following week, against Maryland, three stops against Clemson, another four against Holy Cross and a career-high five against North Carolina State. And he blocked an extra point against Florida State

In the classroom that season he was an ACC Honor Roll selection, in addition to being a member of the Syracuse University Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for both semesters.

In his final season for the Orange, Black rang up 38 tackles, 22 of them solos and two sacks.

He had a career-high eight tackles, one solo and seven assists, against Liberty, and five each against Pittsburgh and North Carolina. In the Orange’s only victory, 37-20 over Georgia Tech, he intercepted one pass. Once again he made the ACC Honor Roll.

At Harlem

Black played both ways while at Harlem, at offensive tackle and defensive end, for head coach Jim Morrow. He was ranked No. 4 defensive end in the state of Illinois and won special mention, all-state honors. Locally, he was a two-time, All-NIC-10 selection.

In an especially outstanding game, he made 10 tackles, five of them for losses, had two sacks and one pass deflection in a 2015 conference win over Rockford Guilford. For that performance he was accorded the Defensive Player of the Game.

For his senior season, he made 57 tackles, 13 of them for losses, had seven sacks and blocked two kicks. He was the Huskies’ captain and most valuable player.

In addition, for two seasons Black threw the shot for Harlem’s track and field team and in 2016 finished third in the state by throwing 59 feet, 7 1/2 inches.

He was No. 1 among state qualifiers with a throw of 61 feet, 9 inches. At state, he was fourth in Flight 4 with a toss of 57 feet, 9 inches to reach the finals.

Teammate Josh Kowalski qualified for state when he threw 55 feet, 8 inches in the sectional. Then he took second in Flight 3 at state, going an identical 55 feet, 8 inches. He improved by three feet in the finals, throwing 58 feet, 1/2-inch, which was good for seventh place overall.

Between them they scored 10 points for the Huskies, who tied for 29th among 75 teams that made the finals.      

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