After the euphoric celebration had finally died down, when the last chest bump and hug was given out, Danny Landberg gave a succinct summation of his Erasmus Hall squad.
“We’re nuts,” the Dutchmen coach said with a wry smile following his team’s dramatic and shocking, 14-13 victory over previously undefeated Tottenville at Sid Luckman Field in Brooklyn.
How else to explain Erasmus Hall knocking off the high-powered Pirates eight days after it was punished by DeWitt Clinton?
The defense went from being unable to stop a nosebleed — to quote Bart Scott — to being an impenetrable, cohesive unit. The offense limited its mistakes, turning the ball over just once, and went back to its roots, amassing 228 yards on the ground.
“It was more about us getting back to who we are,” the coach said. “We did things that got us to this point.”
Wayne Morgan played like the All-American he is, shutting down Tottenville star wide receiver Alvin Cornelius. He had an integral fourth-quarter interception, a 50-yard punt return, and ran the offense well, picking up 55 rushing yards along the way. Shaquell Jackson was his typical workmanlike self, gaining 109 yards on 14 carries. And sophomore Curtis Samuel supplied the big plays, from his 22-yard rushing touch down to a key 2-point conversion and 24-yard pickup on an important fourth-quarter third down, despite not practicing at all with a bad hamstring.
“Curtis is the next great player in New York City,” Landberg said.
Led by Luder Jean Pierre, the entire defense stood tall, one week after it was abused in a 30–6 whitewashing by Clinton. Tottenville did get out to a 13–0 with 6:39 left before halftime, but was allowed little else.
The Pirates did run for 193 yards, 135 from junior Augustus Edwards, but Erasmus Hall’s defense didn’t break, limiting junior quarterback Brandon Barnes to a pedestrian 4-of-13 for 78 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“Everybody got together with the heads and hearts and brought it each play,” Jean Louis said. “I felt the energy. Guys were hyped today, the crowd, the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
After taking a 14–13 lead on Jackson’s 3-yard touchdown run and Samuel’s 2-point conversion late in the third quarter, E-Hall turned away the Pirates greatest scoring chance. Tottenville methodically moved the ball to the Dutchmen 2-yard line, but a costly holding penalty and two subsequent incomplete pass turned them away.
“That’s the game right there,” Tottenville coach Jim Munson said.
The Pirates (3-1) got the ball three more times, but Morgan picked off Barnes, Jean Louis forced an Edwards fumble with a crushing hit and Tottenville was unable to move the ball after taking over from its own 13 with 1:47 left.
The Dutchmen (2-2) credited the win to a great week of practice, the best week it’s had all year. Workouts were filled with hitting, intensity and plenty of yelling. It carried over onto game day.
“Usually in practice, a few guys are missing, not listening,” Morgan said. “This week everybody was there, everybody was focused.”
Beyond the humbling loss, there was added motivation. Morgan, Jackson and company had faced Tottenville twice and lost both match-ups, including a heartbreaker in the semifinals as sophomores. The junior varsity team’s undefeated season last fall was also ruined by Tottenville.
“This win means everything to me,” Morgan said. “We were saying payback all week.”
Oddly, Morgan said, Tottenville was the perfect opponent for the Dutchmen. The challenge now is matching the passion it had Sunday afternoon, bottling it up and playing with such emotion on a weekly basis.
“It’s gotta be a matter of trust and will and heart,” Landberg said.
Morgan has the perfect solution.
“Every week we have to prepare like we’re playing Tottenville,” he said.