The Erasmus Hall football team broke up a huddle around coach Danny Landberg and began walking toward the locker room. Senior Jauvan John trotted along toting a sledgehammer in his right hand.
The Dutchmen’s wide receiver/defensive back wasn’t off to a construction site. He was awarded the heavy tool for his performance in a 34-14 home victory against Brooklyn Tech on Saturday in the PSAL City Championship division.
“This represents defense right here,” John said, hoisting it up with both hands. “We hit hard %u2013 like a sledgehammer.”
Erasmus Hall’s defense has been much-maligned in recent weeks, especially after giving up 30 points to Bayside last Saturday. Landberg said that game was a disappointment on the defensive side of the ball.
“We were upset with last week’s win,” the coach said. “We gave up 30 points %u2013 we shouldn’t do that.”
Erasmus (5-0) has been touted all season for its electrifying offense, but Landberg made the focus on defense this week in practice. The Dutchmen responded by giving up just three first downs to Brooklyn Tech (3-2).
The Engineers scored on an interception return by Tarrance Taylor and on a 1-yard touchdown run by Taylor when they were given the ball on the 5-yard line after a Wayne Morgan fumble. Both of those were in the first half and Brooklyn Tech, which owned a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, didn’t score again.
“Our defense is the heart and soul of our team,” said Morgan, the team’s co-quarterback and safety. “People were saying that we were inconsistent on defense. We proved them wrong today.”
The offense did plenty, too. Brooklyn Tech was blitzing early in the game in an attempt to keep Morgan and co-quarterback Omari Matthews in the pocket. It worked at first, but Erasmus started throwing more screen passes and Jauvan John was the recipient of a pair of long touchdowns.
The first, a 24-yard catch and run, came from Morgan with 50 seconds left in the first half. The second, a 35-yard play, was thrown by Matthews with 22 seconds to go and got the game even at 14.
The Engineers had a chance to go into the half with a 14-8 lead, but James Brown, on a halfback pass, was intercepted by John. That led to his second touchdown.
“I was flabbergasted,” Matthews said of the interception. “I didn’t even know he had it.”
That ended up being the turning point of the afternoon. Alik Robinson broke the tie with a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown with 4:49 left in the third quarter. Erasmus recovered an onside kick and scored again, on a Matthews 17-yard run, as time expired in the third. The Dutchmen put the finishing touches on the victory with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to tight end Jonathan Yearwood.
Morgan, a sophomore who is the most highly touted underclassmen in the city, made sure to say after that Matthews is not his backup. They’re a “two-headed monster” or “double trouble.” Morgan isn’t sure yet %u2013 he’s still working on a nickname.
They were certainly both effective Saturday. Morgan was 8-of-12 for 191 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. Matthews was 4-of-5 for 57 yards with a touchdown and a pick. John had four catches for 109 yards and two scores. Shaquell Jackson had 70 yards on 13 carries. Landberg wasn’t entirely happy with his offense, though.
“I think we need to run the ball more consistently,” the coach said.
The defense, though? There wasn’t anything inconsistent about it.
“The coaches and the team felt disrespected,” Matthews said. “I think we have one of the best defenses in the city.”