Chiefs Defeated, 28-24, In PSAL Championship Game
Chiefs Defeated, 28-24, In PSAL Championship Game
By Eric Goodman
Everyone expected a close contest for the Public School Athletic League championship, played last Saturday at Midwood Field in Brooklyn between the two best teams in the city. And when it was over, neither Canarsie High School nor the Tottenville (Staten Island) High School disappointed, as each team scored four touchdowns. However, the Chiefs missed four crucial extra-point attempts while the Pirates capitalized on each one to claim its first PSAL title since 1997 with a 28-24 victory.
Tottenville senior Deigo Oquendo began his one-man assault on Canarsie early, as he blocked the Chiefs first punt and returned it for a touchdown. Danny Dalbero followed with the first of four point-after kicks for an early 7-0 lead.
"Canarsie underestimated us today saying we were overrated, but obviously we must be because the score says it all," said Oquendo.
The senior scored two more touchdowns, including the game winner, as well as breaking up Canarsie’s final pass attempt on fourth down with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Pirates closed out the first quarter with the ball on the Chiefs’ one-yard line and scored on the first play of the second quarter as senior running back Jonathan Pitt-Coombs busted through the Canarsie defensive line for the touchdown. The 2003 PSAL league-leader in rushing yards, Pitt-Combs led all rushers Saturday with 208 yards on 36 attempts. Dalbero added the extra point to make it 14-0.
With the Chiefs in desperate need of a touchdown, they turned to the ever-reliable running back tandem of sophomore Jamal Schulters and junior Elijah Fleming. Schulters quickly put the Chiefs into the red zone with a 49-yard run and Fleming followed with a 13-yard touchdown rush to cut the deficit to 14-6. The junior running back gained a total of 83 yards on the ground, while his teammate rushed for 135 yards on 18 carries, bringing his post-season total to over 670 yards in four games.
Tottenville appeared to put the game out of reach on its following possession as quarterback Frank Messina hit Oquendo in stride for a 62-yard touchdown pass, but an offensive holding penalty nullified the score. The Chiefs’ James Lawson subsequently sacked Messina to force a Tottenville punt.
The Pirates were poised to score again in the closing seconds of the first half when they had the ball at the Chiefs’ one-yard line, but Canarsie’s defense stopped Tottenville on two goal line attempts. Canarsie defensive end Thomas Massey stopped Pitt-Coombs on a third down rushing attempt, followed by an incomplete pass by Messina on fourth down to keep the score at 14-6 to end the first half.
The Tottenville offense went three downs and out to open the second half and punted to Schulters who returned the ball to the Pirates’ three-yard line. The speedy sophomore followed with a three-yard run for the first of two rushing TDs. The Chiefs failed on a two-point conversion attempt and trailed 14-12.
Oquendo helped the Pirates respond immediately when he caught a pass from Messina with one hand and took it 53-yards into the end zone on the following drive. Dalbero put another kick through the uprights to pad the Pirates lead at 21-12.
Schulters assured that the Chiefs would not be counted out just yet as his 57-yard touchdown rush on the following drive made the score 21-18.
Tottenville appeared to be headed for another score late in the third quarter after a 66-yard pass from Messina to senior receiver Lesean Paul put the ball on the Canarsie 12-yard line. But Canaries junior defensive end Ronnell Cummings recovered a fumble on the next play and returned it to the Pirates’ 14-yard line to set up a 14-yard touchdown rush by Fleming. Canarsie took the lead for the first time at 24-21.
As the third quarter ended, it marked the first time this season that Tottenville trailed going into the fourth quarter.
Both offenses failed to score on their next possessions and Canarsie found itself in a punting situation on their 45-yard line. Punter Emmanuel Beawin took a bad snap from his center and was forced to run with the ball, which gave Tottenville the ball on its own 49-yard line.
The Pirates easily moved down field thanks to two penalties against the Chiefs, totaling 25-yards, and ended the drive with a four-yard TD pass from Messina to Oquendo. Dalbero sealed the victory with his fourth extra point kick.
Tottenville head coach James Munson was pleased with his team’s determination to never give up.
"We just kept believing that if we stayed the course and kept on plugging away that good things would happen and it did today." Munson said.
Canarsie head coach Mike Camardese was proud of his team, which made a complete turnaround from last season’s dismal performance.
"We came from a 1-7 record from last year and worked hard to return to the championship this year. My kids played great but we fell short at the end," said Camardese. "Tottenville is too great of a football team for us to be giving them 25-yards on the final drive."