Quorteze Levy is well aware how valuable a second chance can be.
Levy, an 18-year-old senior at Wash High, was a 14-year-old freshman at Kalamazoo Central High School in the fall of 2009. He was rarely attending classes, and in a city where the violent crime rate is double the national average, his lack of attendance was not unique for kids his age.
He was flunking out when a decision was made for Levy to relocate to Washington, to live with relatives. Washington would give the boy nicknamed ‘Tez’ a second chance.
His friends in Kalamazoo were joining gangs, and he was headed in that direction when the family’s decision was made. He enrolled at Wash High in the fall of 2010 to repeat the ninth grade.
The fresh start was welcomed by Levy. He has made an impact as a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track. As a junior, he helped the Prexies’ football team reach the WPIAL Class AA title game, saw considerable action for the basketball team and finished second at the WPIAL Track & Field Championships in the 300-meter hurdles.
His senior year – officially his fifth year as a high school student – promised Levy a chance to make his time at Wash High memorable. With the Prexies returning a strong senior class led by tailback Shai McKenzie, Wash High was expected to compete for a WPIAL football title. That changed Sept.13 when McKenzie suffered a season-ending knee injury during a 66-10 win at Charleroi.
Levy knew it was time to hone the focus he learned as a kid in the impoverished Michigan city that made him. He became a leader for head coach Mike Bosnic’s team when the Prexies needed it the most.
“(My focus) comes from (Kalamazoo),” Levy said. “It’s a rough neighborhood. There’s nothing positive there. When I was there, I was barely in school. I failed my freshman year. Moving to Washington, it really took me away from all of the violence and gang-related things that were going on. My family members there, most of them, don’t have anything positive going for them. I got away from that, so I have to make the most of it, and I do not take it for granted.”
Levy was a key component of the Prexies’ offense for the next four games and on Oct. 17, his birthday, he was preparing to face Freeport on Wash High’s Senior Night. His guidance counselor, Marie Montecalvo, called him into her office to discuss his college transcripts. She raised concerns about Levy repeating his freshman year and the impact it had on his athletic eligibility.
She met with Bosnic and Wash High athletic director Joe Nicolella to discuss the situation, and as Levy prepared the following day for the senior pep rally, he was called into the principal’s office. Bosnic and Nicolella informed Levy that he would not be eligible to play. He broke down in tears.
“I was heartbroken,” Levy said. “I was distraught. I could not focus on anything. I was sad, crying and miserable. I didn’t know what to do.”
Three days later, the WPIAL granted Levy a hardship waiver to make him eligible beginning that day, but since he played for Wash High as an ineligible athlete during five victories, the Prexies would be forced to forfeit those games – causing the team to miss the postseason.
“It has been an emotional rollercoaster,” Levy said. “Not just for me, but for everyone because they had to go through the possibility of forfeiting five games too. It was extremely stressful, but we found a way to bounce back from all of that adversity we faced.”
On Oct. 24, the PIAA overturned the WPIAL’s ruling in a 5-0 decision. Levy was eligible and the Prexies were postseason-bound.
“Quorteze is the kind of kid who is fun to coach because he is a kid who is willing to go through a situation like that,” Bosnic said. “To be able to do that and still produce, and do a great job, is great. I was really proud of the way he handled everything.”
Levy was in uniform for the Prexies’ regular-season finale the next day when Wash High traveled to Waynesburg. The 6-1 senior made the most of the second chance when he caught a 49-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. After enduring life in Kalamazoo and almost having his high school athletic career taken away, Levy knew time was of the essence.
After Seton-La Salle eliminated Wash High in the first round of the WPIAL football playoffs, Levy was counted on by basketball coach Mark Gaither to provide strong leadership for the Prexies’ basketball team. Levy embraced the role and his energetic, relentless play on the court has translated into 10.5 points and eight rebounds per game for Wash High (8-3, 14-6), which is tied for second place in Section 4-AA with only two regular-season games remaining.
“He really has a great outlook on life,” Gaither said. “He enjoys everything he does. He knows his time here is running short and he wants to make the most out of it every day. He plays so hard. If he makes a mistake, he makes up for it in effort alone, and the energy he brings wears off on everybody else.”
With less than fourth months until he receives his high school diploma and basketball season winding down, Levy knows how quickly his love of athletics can be taken away. He saw McKenzie miss all but three games, junior football player Zach Blystone ruled ineligible after transferring from Charleroi and Canon-McMillan junior Luke Blanock, an opponent on the basketball court, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. Those situations, mixed with the hardships he endured in Michigan, make Levy appreciate every game – from tip-off to the final handshake.
“I got a second chance and not everyone does,” Levy said. “I told myself to stop taking everything for granted and leave everything on the field or on the court. Leave everything out there. I have to treat every game like it’s my last.”