2008-11-14 / Sports

Beach Channel Shocks Curtis In PSAL Playoff Upset

By Elio Velez

Benjamin Burrello didn't realize the impact of the events of last Saturday until the Beach Channel Dolphins quarterback sat on his seat on the school bus. Teammates were cheering and yelling as the senior finally began to comprehend what his team just achieved on the Curtis High School Warriors' home field.

Then the feeling of euphoria hit Burrello. He had just taken part in the biggest upset of PSAL playoff high school football history. The #15 seed Dolphins defeated the defending city champions, #2 seed Curtis High School, 8-0, in the first round of the playoffs on a rain soaked turf in Staten Island.

Beach Channel will keep their status as underdogs next week as they travel over the Verazzano Bridge again Saturday at noon to face #1 Port Richmond, who easily dispatched Thomas Jefferson Campus, 41-0. But after beating the #2 seed, the confidence isn't about to disappear from the 3-rated Dolphins against another 5-rated team.

"It was actually on the bus ride. I was looking at my teammates going on the bus ride home and then I knew it. It was the real motivation," Burrello said of the team embracing their role as underdogs.

"Everybody was telling us we couldn't win."

Beach Channel coach Victor Nazario knew besides himself, the coaching staff and the players that they were not the favorites. But he didn't believe they would easily lay down to a team, who was 8-2 and featured a high scoring offense which scored 30 points a game. Many pundits believed Curtis would face #2 seed Port Richmond in a rematch of their last regular season game which the Red Raiders won 42- 34.

As soon as the game was over, it was the media and fellow coaches and PSAL officials ringing Nazario's cell phone trying to get his take on how Beach Channel could pull off an historic upset. One part was the team's belief they could compete.

The Dolphins made a 41- yard touchdown pass from Burrello to senior wide receiver Devon Moore in the first quarter hold up despite the rainy conditions soaking their helmets. Nazario had called the same play in the Dolphins' first drive, which almost worked. He called it again on the second drive, and it gave the Dolphins the only touchdown needed to win.

"After that play my kids ran back to me and said coach we can play with this team. They're not more physical than us and to a man, we can play with this team," Nazario said.

Also add to the equation that the Dolphins' defense held firm and forced the outstanding Warriors' RB Naykwan Johnson to fumble twice despite rushing for 226 yards. They forced QB Xzaviah Stone into a miserable day on the field completing only 2 out of 14 passes, an interception and a fumble. Beach Channel made a goal-line stand in t the end of the first half. Linebacker Travis Scott recovered Johnson's fumble and held the Warriors scoreless yet again.

Nazario invoked the New York Giants' 2008 Super Bowl championship win over the then undefeated New England Patriots as means of inspiring his team. The New York Giants, who weren't favored in their prior three playoff wins, before winning their third championship last January, was impressed by the Beach Channel victory as well. Nazario was honored as the Giants' Lou Rettino high school coach of the week.

Though grateful for all the platitudes and honors the team has received, Nazario and his coaching staff has to preparing for an undefeated Port Richmond team who can put up a lot points on the board. Though the team is different, Beach Channel will approach the game with the same hungry attitude that got them a win when no one expected it. Why change now?

"Who's got more to lose? (We are) a #15 (seed) but I don't think and I told my kids that we're not even viewed as that anymore. I don't think anybody else after Saturday is looking at Beach Channel as a #15 seed or a 3-ranked team," Nazario said. "We're just one of eight teams remaining in the playoffs trying to win a championship. Technically they're still #1 and we're still 15. We're going to be loose, play aggressive and again we have nothing to lose."

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