Far Rock Earns Berth To Cup Division Championship
The outcome of a football game can be decided in a plethora of ways. But the only result Far Rockaway was thinking last Sunday afternoon at home with the game on the line in the fourth quarter and a berth to the PSAL Cup Division championship was stopping Franklin D. Roosevelt's offense from getting into the end zone.
With 48 seconds remaining, Cougars QB Bryan Joseph took the snap and ran with the ball through the middle of the field trying to score the game-tying 2-point conversion. Far Rockaway defensive lineman Dayne Maxwell quickly stepped in front, and joined by teammate Chris Rainey and a host of teammates shut down the FDR quarterback as Far Rockaway held on to an emotional 22-20 semifinal victory.
They will advance to the PSAL Cup championship on Sunday at Midwood Field. The 10 a.m. game will be a rematch of the 10-1 Seahorses' first victory of the season against George Washington. The 9-1 Trojans defeated previously unbeaten South Bronx, 24-8, in the other semifinal last Sunday.
The Seahorses will try to win a title for the first time since 1972, when they won the PSAL city varsity championship. They lost to James Madison in what was then the PSAL B League championship in 1982.
"It's a great feeling. It's hard beating a team twice," Seahorses coach Walt Wilkerson said as his team won 30-20 in the regular season finale. "One of the reasons why is overconfidence. I stressed all week that we couldn't let it happen."
When the Seahorses celebrated in the end zone after the final whistle, lifting an emotional Gregory Ibe on to their shoulders, it was just a continuation to an emotional campaign for the Seahorses.
During training camp, they dedicated the season to former teammate Patrick Hernandez, who was shot and killed this past summer after graduating from Far Rockaway.
On the field, the Seahorses were also looking for redemption and the recovery of a winning attitude since they dropped to the Cup Division this year. After two consecutive losing seasons, Far Rockaway is just one win away on Sunday from completing a fantastic 180-degree turnaround.
But FDR was very close to stopping the Far Rockaway dream. Joseph had played a prominent part in the Cougars second half comeback by scrambling with his feet.
The Cougars climbed back to cut the lead to 22-20 with 48 seconds left on Joseph's 2-yard score. But the Seahorses defense knew Joseph would get the ball. They held off the second two-point conversion attempt by FDR in the fourth quarter.
"All I had to do is hit him and we win the game," Maxwell said. "I didn't think about anything else but doing that and getting to the 'chip."
Rainey, who pairs up with Maxwell up the middle of a tough Seahorses defense, agreed with his teammate.
"We're the bash brothers. We stop them. We win. We haven't won the championship in years," Rainey said. "We practiced hard all week. It was tough but we came through."
Anything but getting to the championship game would have been a failure for RB Gregory Ibe The senior running back had scored his third touchdown of the game with 3:54 remaining in the fourth quarter after catching a 31- yard pass reception from QB Daniel Marc Sear to put the Seahorses up 22-14.
When he lined up at linebacker on the final drive, all he could think of was his team making the stop.
"We're relentless. We got a group of young guys who fight hard all day. We worked hard all day," Ibe said. "We worked hard since August. We worked in sunshine, it doesn't matter. We had to dig in those two yards for the championship and we got it."
Far Rockaway won't be feeling too overconfident. George Washington, who added 8 new starters to a program that returned after forfeiting the entire 2007 season, have not lost a game since Far Rockaway won 38-8 over the Trojans on September 6.
"I'm just happy to be there in the dance. I still remember the 2-7 teams because this season make it all that better. The players who were still here from those teams worked hard to overcome that," Wilkerson said. "I'm treasuring this day because it's an honor to be there."