Grand Street delivered a convincing playoff win against Brooklyn Tech last Saturday, despite its prolific passing attack being grounded with starting quarterback Justin White out with a concussion.
The Wolves instead relied on a offensive line led by running backs Rhamel Ashby and Eugene Qualls to carry the load.
“I put the game on 2 and 21’s back,” Grand Street coach Bruce Eugene said of Ashby and Qualls. “They said, ‘Coach we got you. Give us the rock.’ We gave it to them and they carried us to victory.”
Ashby carried the ball 11 times for 120 yards and three touchdowns and Qualls ran for 73 yards and a score on nine carries. It was more than enough to lift fifth-seeded Grand Street to a 26–0 victory over No. 12 and visiting Brooklyn Tech in the opening round of the Public School Athletic League City Conference football playoffs. Grand Street visits No. 4 Dewitt Clinton at noon on Nov. 22 in the quarterfinals, and it has its running game to thank.
“It’s like lighting and thunder back there,” senior defensive back Edwin Lee said. “Qualls is amazingly strong and Rhamel is amazingly quick.”
The victory had special meaning as Grand Street’s first playoff win at the highest level. Also, Eugene used to coach at Brooklyn Tech (5–6). His players doused him with the Gatorade cooler after the final whistle.
“It was great to see my coach happy,” Ashby said.
They made sure of it right from the start. Grand Street (10–1) scored on its opening drive thanks to a 24-yard scoring run from Ashby. It took a 12–0 lead into the second quarter when Qualls punched it in from four yards out on the final play of the opening stanza. The second drive was set up by Lee recovering a humble.
Brooklyn Tech wouldn’t go quietly. The Engineers squad was playing without starting quarterback Elisha Rueda (knee). It got down to the Grand Street 14-yard line thanks to a 57-yard catch and run between backup Minju Kim and Lawrence Menyah. Brooklyn Tech couldn’t cash in the big play, however. A fumbled snap led to a 28-yard field goal attempt being blocked.
Brooklyn Tech, which was down seven starters, didn’t get close to scoring again. Coach Kyle McKenna still felt going for the field goal on fourth-and-eight was the right decision at the time.
“We were limited in what we could do,” he said. “Our line was beat up. Our protection, we had an issue with that. To get three points on the board would have been good there, but we were also kicking with our back up kicker.”
Ashby took care of the rest as Grand Street finally wore down the Brooklyn Tech defense. He closed out the third quarter with touchdown runs of 19 and 36 yards. Back up quarterback Mateo Gil completed big passes when the Wolves needed to keep drives alive for Grand Street.
“Everybody had to step up,” Ashby said. “Even the backup quarterback Mateo, he did a good job stepping up and finishing plays.”
Grand Street expects to have White back against Clinton, which will add the extra dimension to its offense. The Wolves hope getting to the semifinals would quiet the doubters.
“Since we entered the season we were the underdogs,” Lee said. “We have proved week by week that we are not underdogs, but people continue to doubt us. We don’t pay much attention to them. We just play Grand Street football.”