The Lincoln High School Railsplitters took the first round of the Public School Athletic League’s football playoffs by besting Campus Magnet High School 44–14 at Lafayette High School on Saturday — a victory the team hopes will bring a modicum of cheer to its Hurricane Sandy-ravaged school.
The super storm that killed seven borough residents hit the Coney Island school and its administration particularly hard: the school’s basement was flooded, the team’s three-year-old, state-of-the-art football field where the Railsplitters boast a 19–1 record was seriously damaged and can’t be used, and nearly 15 Railsplitters still remain homeless. The school is also reeling from death of Henry Sullivan, a beloved science teacher who drowned in his home as Hurricane Sandy hit the Rockaways.
But players say the tragedies the school’s facing just emboldened them to win on Saturday.
“We’re playing for everybody,” said quarterback Javon Moore. “We lost Mr. Sullivan, and people are in distress. We’re trying to bounce back as a whole team and cheer everyone up. We’re trying to do good for all of Coney Island.”
Moore sweetened the victory by rushing two touchdowns and sending a 22-yard strike through the air to Carlos Stewart. Lincoln High School was trailing Campus Magnet early in the game, but Railsplitter Antoine Holloman Jr. turned everything around when he returned a punt 96-yards for a score — kicking off his team’s 28-point run as the Lincoln High School squad settled into its replacement field.
“No matter what’s underneath us we know what we have to do,” Moore said.
The Railsplitters won’t know until Wednesday if they will be able to use its field during the playoffs. If not, Lincoln will have to play at nearby Lafayette or William E. Grady high schools as work crews repair the team’s home turf — an unsettling reminder of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath.
“The field looks like someone pulled on a carpet and created grooves in it,” said Lincoln High School athletic director Renan Ebeid. “Over by the opposing team’s sidelines, it’s just lined with grooves.”
Despite all setbacks the school and student body has faced over the previous week, the entire team showed up for the first post-Hurricane Sandy practice, coach Shawn O’Connor said.
“As the storm was hitting us, I had kids calling, texting and e-mailing me about when we would be able to practice again,” O’Connor said. “It’s what we all needed to get our mind’s off of what happened.”
The team spent the majority of the practice cleaning out the flooded locker room, trying to find equipment that was still usable. Lafayette, Grady and Fort Hamilton high schools all donated gear so the Railsplitters could play — and raise their classmates’ spirits.
“It’s just really nice to have an escape and see a football game,” Lincoln High School principal Ari Hoogenboom said.
Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.