Grand Street Campus went into opening weekend looking at itself as a PSAL city title contender and ended up laying an egg. The Wolves were run over by league power Sheepshead Bay in what could have easily been a confidence-shattering, season-altering loss.
But first-year coach Mike Lightfoot, one of the more upbeat guys you’ll ever talk to, kept practice positive.
“It wasn’t like we were a team that didn’t belong there and we were outmatched at all times,” he said of the loss. “After the game, I told them all preseason, ‘We’re using the word championship and something like this isn’t gonna get in the way.’”
One week later, against a better team than Sheepshead, Grand Street Campus showed off some of the promise Lightfoot has been raving about in a 32-28 win against visiting Erasmus Hall, a semifinalist last year, in PSAL City Championship division football Sunday.
“I told them, ‘The only team right now that we have to worry about is ourselves,’” Lightfoot said. “The team that has the best chance in beating us is us.”
Grand Street (1-1) made all the right plays against Erasmus (1-1). The Dutchmen marched down the field and scored on their opening drive, but instead of packing it in, the Wolves came right back, quarterback Cristian Pena hitting Therno Diallo with a 55-yard touchdown pass.
“He just put the ball up and Therno went up and sucked it in, broke a tackle and ran the rest of the way,” Lightfoot said.
Erasmus took the lead again and the game went back and forth the entire way until the fourth quarter. With six minutes left, Pena found Diallo (four receptions, 113 yards) again for a 25-yard touchdown pass to give Grand Street a 32-28 lead. On the ensuing possession, Wolves lineman Michael Alexander forced the Dutchmen into a fumble on a bad pitch and Malcolm James recovered.
Off the turnover, Grand Street got down to the 1-yard line, but E-Hall came up with a goal-line stand, giving the talented squad a chance for a final drive. Two reverses got the Dutchmen to midfield, but Wolves cornerback Isaiah Clarke, who was beaten on a touchdown earlier, batted down three straight passes and Grand Street held on for the victory.
“We have the personality that when one thing goes wrong, it all does – like the domino effect,” Lightfoot said. “That didn’t happen today.”
Pena was the main reason for that resiliency. He rushed for 73 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns and completed 11-of-18 passes for 206 yards and two more scores.
“Pena was absolutely awesome today,” Lightfoot said. “Numbers aside, it was the clutch situations that really counted.”
For Grand Street, too.
“Before the season I said, we have the potential to play with anybody,” Lightfoot said. “Even though I was down about losing to Sheepshead Bay, I kept it positive. We needed to get guys excited about playing football.”