Keep calm and play on.
That needs to be the motto of the Grand Street football team for the rest of the season if it wants to win its first Public School Athletic League City Conference championship.
The Wolves love to play with a ton of emotion, a chip on their shoulders and an us-against-the-world mentality.
That edge has been a part of the program’s recent success, but it could also be the downfall of coach Bruce Eugene’s troops.
It nearly was in a 26–20 comeback win over Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge on Sept. 11. Grand Street came out two jacked up, too emotional, and too eager to succeed.
It led to a sloppy first half that saw its offense moving backward instead of charging down field as expected. Too many negative plays and too many penalties, many of them for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Grand Street lost 150 yards on 13 penalties in the game. The all-too-familiar lack of discipline was because the players cared too much and tried too hard.
“We got caught up, our emotions got the best of us,” Eugene said. “We had to calm down and not ride the wave and play with skill.”
When you have the level and the amount of skill Grand Street has, you can erase mistakes. Taysir Mack, Christopher Mattocks, Ahmed Bah, Kyle Brisfere, and Michael Charles made just enough after the break to get Grand Street a victory on its final possession.
Brisfere, who caught the winning 10-yard score, said even he had to calm himself down.
Five plays earlier he dropped a potential touchdown because he wanted to catch it so badly.
“I was just too focused on trying to make a big play,” Brisfere said.
The game should be a wake up call to Eugene and his staff. I understand you want your kids playing with an edge — something the Wolves lacked in a shutout loss to Abraham Lincoln in last year’s semifinal.
For this team to be successful as a favorite to win a crown it needs to find that line between hard-hitting play and frenzied carelessness.
You are going to get every team’s best effort and also its best attempts at egging you on to emotional mistakes.
The Grand Street players and coaches found a balance in the second half last Friday after a hard hit on the opening kickoff by Angel Ortiz. There was a calm all around, from the players to less yelling from the coaches.
“We were going back and forth talking,” Mack said. “Once we realized you can’t win a game talking, we sat down and said ‘let them talk, let them get aggressive. Let’s show them we know how to play football.’ ”
Grand Street let its talent do the talking after that. It needs to stay that way, because the team won a game in which it nearly beat itself — and imagine how tough it will be when it doesn’t.
So keep calm and play on.