Tiger ‘D’ holds up just fine, so far

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When Fort Hamilton held on for a one-point win in overtime over Sheepshead Bay to start the PSAL season, the Tigers wildly celebrated the victory. The euphoria quickly faded for the defense, which was shredded for 416 total yards.

“We were really disappoint­ed,” defensive tackle Kevon Foster recalled. “That’s not how we play defense.”

Not lately, at least.

Fort Hamilton won its third straight game to open the season Thursday afternoon with an impressive, 25-6 road victory over Brooklyn Tech in PSAL City Championship division action. It was the second straight solid showing from its improving defense.

The Tigers (3-0) turned the Engineers over twice in the opening half. Zayar Tun picked off Hisham Dola and Samuel Perea recovered a James Brown fumble, leading to a pair of Frank Laino touchdown runs, of 3 and 11 yards, respectively.

“You can’t makes mistakes like that against Fort Hamilton,” Brooklyn Tech coach Kyle McKenna said.

The Tigers’ offensive attack didn’t hum as it had last week in piling up 38 points against Staten Island power Curtis. Quarterback Frank Laino completed just 4-of-9 passes for 110 yards and AJ Richardson rushed 10 times for 93 yards, but had two long touchdown runs called back.

“Every game in Brooklyn is crazy,” Fort Hamilton coach Vinny Laino said. “I’m thrilled with the win.”

As he did last week, Richardson, the diminutive yet explosive back, set the tone for the afternoon. He took the opening kickoff 80 yards, his seventh touchdown of the season. Last week, he found pay dirt three times.

“It made us feel undefeated,” Foster said of Richardson’s return. “Like nobody can stop us.”

Brooklyn Tech (2-1) scored on its opening drive of the second half, going 73 yards in 13 plays. Senior running back Tarrance Taylor capped the possession with a 13-yard scoring dash on 4th-and-1.

The smashmouth attack dried up after that. Brown was sacked by defensive back Marvin Centeno %u2013 one of four by the Tigers %u2013 on 3rd-and-4 from the 16, as the once-promising drive stalled late in the fourth quarter.

“We’re getting better, no question about that,” Vinny Laino said. “We’re playing more team defense. Our guys are buying in.”

Vinny Laino credited the improvement to the newcomers meshing with the holdovers. The Tigers are swarming to the ball, gang-tackling, instead of one man being left out on an island to make a solo tackle. They consistently run-blitzed to thwart the Brooklyn Tech power running game, frequently shooting the ‘A’ gap.

“We were fearful they were gonna pound the ball,” Vinny Laino said.

Foster doesn’t think the unit is out of the woods yet. He hasn’t liked the slow starts after halftime. The run defense can be shaky, as it was in allowing Brooklyn Tech to march down the field twice in the second half.

Frank Laino put an exclamation point on the victory by hitting wide receiver Brandon Reddish on a 69-yard touchdown pass. With an LSU assistant coach there taking a look, Reddish broke free of defensive backs Brown and Oyeleye Odewunmi, reversed field and was gone, his second score of that distance in as many weeks.

The Tigers remained undefeated with a city championship rematch against Port Richmond upcoming. Prior to the season, Vinny Laino said he would know what kind of team he had based on how it started in its first four games %u2013 home for Sheepshead Bay and Port Richmond, on the road against Brooklyn Tech and Curtis. That Fort Hamilton has yet to be completely healthy %u2013 wide receiver/cornerback James Howell and linebacker Saleem Abdul didn’t play Thursday %u2013 adds to his optimism.

“We have the potential to be a really good team,” he said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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