Far Rock Fumbles In Playoff Defeat
A high school football game is 48 minutes long and broken into four quarters of 12 minutes each. In New York City, the rules apply to public and catholic schools for regular season and playoff games.
Far Rockaway found themselves playing in the PSAL Bowl semifinals playoffs at Brooklyn Tech and for 24 minutes, they played well enough to a stalemate. Only down 7-6 as the first half ended, the Seahorses looked confident and on the cusp of advancing to the championship at Midwood Field this Sunday.
But the second half started and for the next 24 minutes, Far Rockaway collapsed like a house built on quicksand. Brooklyn Tech capitalized on several turnovers and scored 27 consecutive points to win 34-6 and a berth in the PSAL Bowl Championship against Curtis.
After winning an exciting first round game at Erasmus Hall, Far Rockaway stood tough with higher ranked Engineers squad, who had come off a 40-0 victory over McKee-Staten Island Tech.
The first half started promising as senior linebacker Jeremy Pruitt provided the highlights for the Seahorses. He ripped the ball from QB Basit Ghafoor hands on an attempted option run and stormed down the sidelines for 55 yards and touchdown to make it 6-0.
Ghafoor made up for his blunder on the next series and threw a 14 yard strike to Rajib Din to give Tech a 7-6 Pruitt almost saved the offense with another turnover deep in Brooklyn Tech territory. Pruitt intercepted a Gafoor pass at the one yard line and brought the ball back 89 yards before being caught from behind at the 11 yard line.
With 20 seconds left, Far Rockaway’s offense couldn’t capitalize on their chance to take a lead. Karl Allwood missed a field goal as time ran out and would be the last chance they find themselves close to taking the lead.
Like the famous story of Jekyll and Hyde, the Seahorses lived up to the latter in an excruciating second half that ruined their season.
On their first possession, Far Rockaway’s offense, which was not effective all day, was turned away on three downs. On fourth down, The Seahorses’ poor blocking allowed Brooklyn Tech’s Javaune Graham to block a Jeremy Pruitt punt and bring the ball to the 20 yard line.
The blocked punt opened up the floodgates for Brooklyn Tech’s offense, which struggled all season to score points. RB Brandon Cherington rushed for 20 of his 148 yards on the day for a touchdown run to make it 14-6.
According to Far Rockaway’s David Lawson, the blocked punt and its aftermath started a chain reaction of events that hurt his team.
“We’re known as the comeback kids because we never gave up. But after that blocked punt think a lot of peoples’ hearts shut down and the blood stopped pumping,” Lawson said
Brooklyn Tech head coach Jim DiBenedetto knew the blocked punt and touchdown gave his team the edge. We just made a couple of adjustments. We weren’t doing well and just woke up a little bit. We had some mistakes. We executed a lot of better in the second half,” DiBenedtto said.
“The blocked punt. The onside kick, it took some steam out of them and you could see that they were deflated after that.”
The onside kick DiBenedetto spoke of was on the ensuing kickoff, which went untouched by a Far Rockaway player and recovered by the Engineers on the 25 yard line. Cerington scored on a 2 yard touchdown run for a 21-6 lead.
The reaction from the players on the sideline was of shock and disappointment as their season crumbled.
“We had the game but we wasn’t just playing together. We couldn’t move the ball like we was supposed to,” lineman Shaun Wheeler said.
Head coach Anthony Miele admitted his team was outplayed.
“I think in the first half we out played them. We got some breaks. We stopped their run,”
“But it’s the job of the myself and the coaches to prepare them to play for the whole playoff game. We played a half of football. In the second half, we broke down. We didn’t come to play in the second half. We couldn’t overcome it.”
As a season ended, a high school football playing career also finished for Jeremy Pruitt. He admitted that his team’s mental toughness, which a young team seemed to have for most of the year, wasn’t present in that important third quarter
“We made some mistakes and then we gave up. The blocked punt and then everything else. That reminded me of the first couple of games of the year. We got blown out and it’s like we gave up.,” Pruitt said. The senior captain though will want to remember the good moments of what was his most successful season.
“I’m just glad we got to this point. It’s been a long time we didn’t get here. It felt good to play in a game like this.”