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Fort Hamilton wary of upset-minded Tottenville

The Brooklyn Paper
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When Vinny Laino looks at Tottenville he doesn’t see a No. 13 seed or the same club his Tigers walloped, 50-14, to end the regular season.

He sees Fort Hamilton’s greatest challenge in the Pirates.

“We think it’s going to be the toughest game of the year for us,” Laino said. “We’re expecting it to go down to the wire.”

Laino said “everything fell right for us,” in the first meeting on Staten Island. Senior Levon Williams and sophomore Brandon Reddish returned Mike DiGirolamo interceptions for touchdowns. Junior quarterback Frank Laino, the coach’s son, threw two touchdown passes and ran for another. The Tigers converted several important third downs. And once the lead grew, it kept on getting bigger.

He doesn’t expect history to repeat itself. Tottenville will come to Brooklyn riding high after shocking No. 4 Kennedy last Saturday, 15-12, coming from 12 points behind at halftime in the pouring rain, ending the Knights’ seven-game winning streak.

“That’s impressive,” Laino said.

Not everything went according to plan for the 10-0 Tigers in Week 9. They allowed Tottenville (6-4) senior Tremaine Wilson run for 218 yards and two touchdowns. A repeat performance could go a long way toward an upset. The playoffs, after all, are often about who runs the ball and who stops the run. The Tigers sure run well, with quarterback Frank Laino, senior Gardner Robinson and junior Alton Richardson running well behind one of the best offensive lines in the city.

The plan, Vinny Laino said, is to cut off Wilson’s cutback lanes, to make Tottenville one-dimensional.

The last time Fort Hamilton won the city championship, the second of back-to-back crowns, was in 2006. That year, it had a similar second-round game, against Sheepshead Bay.

The Tigers had rolled over them, 52-28, in the regular-season finale, but the playoff matchup was much closer, a 20-0 shutout. Laino remembers motivating his players on the defensive side of the ball by saying that giving up 28 points isn’t a good effort. And he did the same thing this week when dissecting game film.

“Stopping Tottenville’s running game will go a long way to winning this game,” Laino said.”

If the Tigers do come out on top, they will finally be recognized as a legitimate city championship contender. Before the win over Tottenville, Fort Hamilton was dismissed as a product of a weak schedule. But with No. 2 Curtis and No. 4 Kennedy surprisingly exiting the postseason early, the Tigers may be top-seeded Port Richmond’s toughest foe remaining.

“I don’t know if that’s the case yet,” Laino said of any newfound respect. “We’re in perfect position. We’re flying under the radar. Nobody has taken us seriously all year long. Quietly, the boys have been getting the job done. I hope that continues.” 

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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