Wayne Morgan’s long punt return set up Shaquell Jackson’s rushing touchdown, cutting Lincoln’s lead to just one possession and giving Erasmus Hall new life.
Then the Railsplitters’ grind-it-out offense drained every last ounce of it.
Lincoln responded to E-Hall’s first score of the game with a long drive, featuring clutch conversions on a short fourth down and third-and-long, en route to a 28-8 victory Friday night in PSAL City Championship division football. Railsplitters quarterback Andrew Vital capped the series with a 2-yard touchdown run that put Lincoln (7-0) ahead, 22-8, with five seconds left in the third quarter at Aviator Complex in Brooklyn.
“Momentum is everything in this game,” Erasmus coach Danny Landberg said. “Whoever has momentum is going to move the ball.”
Kerrick Simmons converted a huge 4th-and-1 and Vital had an 18-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 to keep the drive alive.
“Coach said we have to make sure our offense keeps the ball,” Vital said. “We have to keep it out of Wayne’s hands, and in my hands.”
It wasn’t the prettiest win for Lincoln. The Railsplitters fumbled at the Dutchmen 1-yard line and had another drive stall inside the 10 in the first half, yet still went into the break with a 16-0 lead on No. 6 Erasmus (5-2). Lincoln’s mammoth offensive line did the rest, wearing down the Dutchmen. Vital had 86 of his 104 yards in the second half and running back Kareem Folkes had 91 of his 95 yards after halftime.
“We have the biggest offensive line in the PSAL,” Folkes said. “It’s like over 1,000 pounds.”
The victory preserves Lincoln’s undefeated season and solidifies the team among the best in the city. But of concern is the status of All-American defensive end/tight end Ishaq Williams, who injured his shin in the second quarter and didn’t return.
“We’re gonna get him to the doctor tomorrow, get him checked out,” Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor said. “He kind of landed wrong when he was running after a play.”
O’Connor said he was happy to hear it was Williams’ shin and not one of his joints. Williams, who is considering schools like Alabama, Notre Dame and Penn State, among many others, was off to a fast start. He stripped Erasmus quarterback Omari Matthews in the first quarter and recovered the fumble that set up a Vital 9-yard touchdown run that made it 8-0 with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
Erasmus fumbled the ensuing kickoff return and Lincoln’s Jessel Jones recovered, but the Railsplitters failed to capitalize. They did score, however, on the Dutchmen’s next series. A bad snap — and there were many from both teams – on a punt in the end zone ended up in the hands of Lincoln’s Andrew Justice for a touchdown. The Railsplitters defense gave up just three first downs in the first half.
“I think the two aspects of the game were offensive and defensive line,” O’Connor said. “I think they controlled them – in the first half and the second half.”
Vital capped the scoring with his third touchdown of the game, scooping up his own fumble on a bad snap and racing 35 yards to pay dirt with 3:34 left in the game. At that point, everything was going right for the Railsplitters. Then again, not much has gone wrong this season.
“I know there’s a lot of questions about us,” O’Connor said. “Like I told the guys before the game, you always hear Tottenville, Fort Hamilton … and Lincoln. So I’m hoping we can get in the mix with those two.”
Added Folkes: “In between the lines, we’re the best team in the PSAL. Nobody works harder than us.”