Erasmus Hall High School squeezed out a nail-biting 15–14 victory over Tottenville High School at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday — a victory that both made the Dutchmen city champions and successfully exorcised the demons that plagued the team during last year’s title fight.
Dutchmen Oumar Coulibaly, Tysene Foster, and Rujel Henry gang-sacked Tottenville back-up quarterback Joshua Rainey on the Erasmus 30-yard line as time expired, giving the unbeaten team its first crown in the Public School Athletic League’s top division. Erasmus Hall won ‘B’ championships in 1986 and 1987 and lost a title game against Lincoln High School last year.
“We all remembered the feeling we had after last year’s game,” running back Curtis Samuel said. “So we were saying we didn’t want to come out and feel that again.”
The win was an uplifting experience for head coach Danny Landberg, who lost his Rockaway home in Hurricane Sandy. He said he drew strength from his players as the team rallied around him.
“This is very emotional for me,” Landberg said. “I fought a lot of demons in my life, but I got my boys and they’re my medicine. I need them.”
His players doused him in ice water and raised him up while running onto the field in celebration but, at the time, Landberg couldn’t fully grasp what he and his team had accomplished.
“I’m sure it’s going to settle in later,” he said. “I can tell you this is a better feeling than last year.”
Samuel, who was injured for last year’s final, made sure of that: he ran for 118 yards and had 40 receiving. Senior quarterback Matt Domina had Erasmus’ first score, on a six-yard run in the first quarter. Samuel gave the Dutchmen a 15–14 lead with 2:07 left in the third on a two-point conversion run after Jonathan Samerson’s three-yard touchdown scamper.
Landberg said he had no qualms about lining up Samuel in the Wildcat position for a direct snap, even though the team only needed an extra point to tie.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever coached at Erasmus. No question,” he said of Samuel.
Samuel proved that by getting the biggest two yards in program history as he leapt into the end zone.
“I saw the hole, and I was head to head with a defender, and I knew I could get over him,” Samuel said.
The points came right after Tottenville took a 14–7 lead when quarterback Brandon Barnes — who missed the final two drives with a shoulder injury — scored from four-yards out. Tottenville marched 31-yards in 35 seconds on the game’s final drive before the Dutchmen brought the gridiron squad to a halt.
During the final play, Coulibaly’s eyes never left Rainey knowing that a year’s work was at stake.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything but going for the guy with the ball,” the defensive end said. “I didn’t even know time expired after it, I was just going all out.”
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