Danny Landberg knew coming into the season that his team had talent. The Erasmus Hall football coach was just worried about leadership and guts — how the Dutchmen would fare going up against a traditional power on the road in a hostile environment.
Everything about Erasmus Hall’s 14-12, season-opening win Saturday against defending PSAL city champion Curtis on Staten Island fit the criteria. But Landberg still wasn’t sold.
“I think we got a little lucky,” he said. … “I’m just glad we got out of here with a win. I’m a tough critic.”
The coach wasn’t all smiles, because Curtis (0-1) came within inches of tying the score with 46.3 seconds left. Warriors senior Andy McCoy, who filled in nicely for star running back Shaquan Coles (knee), ran it in from 5 yards, but quarterback Tynell Brown’s dive for the 2-point conversion was just short.
Erasmus Hall (1-0) also capitalized on a pair of Curtis fumbles — recovered by Devon Baldie and Alex Williams — and a strange sequence at the end of the first half. The Warriors were backed up to their own 2-yard line on fourth down with nine seconds left. Instead of punting, coach Pete Gambardella called for Brown to throw a long pass down the right sidelines. It fell incomplete and Curtis turned it over on downs with three seconds still left on the clock. On the next play Dutchmen junior Shaquell Jackson scored to make it 6-0.
“I was trying to waste time,” Gambardella said. “We were just trying to take a shot.”
Erasmus, ranked No. 4 in New York City by The Post, took momentum into halftime and on its first drive of the second half, highly touted quarterback Wayne Morgan ran for a 54-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 on a play that wasn’t even drawn up until halftime. Dutchmen coaches noticed the Warriors shading them to the strong side, so they had Morgan run toward the weak side and he took it all the way down the left sideline to the end zone.
“We’ve never even ran that play before,” Morgan said.
No. 8 Curtis came right back with a 15-yard touchdown run from McCoy (17 carries, 99 yards) with 6:47 left in the third. But those two late fumbles — including one at the Erasmus 17 with 5:37 left — were an absolute killer.
“You expect mistakes,” Gambardella said. “It’s Week 1.”
E-Hall’s defense deserves some of the credit. It was better than advertised — not as big and strong as Curtis, but exceptionally fast. Plus, nose tackle Justin Walker was dynamic in the trenches.
“He tore up the center,” Landberg said. “He gave them havoc.”
Landberg called it a significant victory for his program, which made its first trip to the PSAL semifinals last year. Curtis is one of the league’s premier programs – the Warriors have five city titles, the second most all-time.
“I still can’t believe we won,” Morgan said. “It’s Curtis. … It’s a big statement. The statement means that we can’t be defeated. We’re the team to beat.”
Morgan said he was unsure of his team’s mettle early in the preseason also. But a players-only meeting up at training camp went a long way. Every single player on the roster spoke – about their lives off the field and about the team. It was a tremendous bonding experience, the blue-chip recruit said.
“Everybody got it out,” Morgan remembered. “Since that night, we’ve been a different team.”
Landberg still isn’t sure. At least not on the merit of Saturday’s game.
“I still think there’s better out there,” he said. … “Our offense is usually running on more cylinders. We were sloppy.”