By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Leon Goldstein High School is technically named the Dolphins, but its girls flag football team prefers to go by another name — the Purple Swarm.
The new moniker comes from it's tenacious defense that has not allowed a single point against all season long. Last Thursday, Goldstein’s Purple Swarm beat Fort Hamilton 26-0 in Gerritsen Beach to improve to a perfect 9-0 on the year.
“That’s our identity, we’re the Purple Swarm,” head coach Salvatore Prestianni said after Thursday’s victory. “Defense has been a huge part of our success and the reason we’re the Purple Swarm is because on every play all seven of us fly to the ball and smother the opposing team.”
Fort Hamilton is no simple team to beat either. The Tigers entered the game with a 7-1 record, their only loss from a previous matchup against Goldstein earlier in the season. Their quarterback, Maria Papadakos, is one of the best in the city, so shutting her down isn't easy, even though the Purple Swarm made it look that way.
Fort Hamilton went three-and-out twice, had two other turnovers on downs and were forced to punt five times. The only time the Tigers even threatened to score was midway in the second half when Sama Emam ran the ball 15 yards to set up a good chance. However, that drive ended when Goldstein's Emily Ourzdine intercepted a pass and ran it back 60-yards for a touchdown.
The touchdown by Ourzdine made it 19-0 at the time and essentially ended the game. However, she removed any doubt a few minutes later when she scored another touchdown, on a 10-yard run, to make it 26-0 in the final seconds
"I was not expecting that interception," Ourzdine said. "My teammate tipped the ball and I was able to follow it into my hands and run it down the field. That comes from staying focused which is something that coach tells us all the time."
The Purple Swarm were able to put the game away thanks to some strong play in the first half. Katelynn Doyle had a short catch for a touchdown early that got them on the board. Rorie St. Lawrence made it 13-0 early in the second half when she made a miraculous catch that was tipped by a teammate.
The win puts Goldstein closer to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. It has been to the playoffs in the two previous years that the Public School Athletic League has had a flag football league, but was defeated by the eventual champions in the semifinals two years in a row. The girls are hoping that this year will finally be the season they get over the top.
"This team is really special," Nancy Palumbo said. "We're very competitive and we have this great bond. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses well and try to use that to our advantage. We also have an amazing coach that keeps us focused and motivated."
The season isn't over yet, though, as the Purple Swarm have three games left against Erasmus Hall, Sheepshead Bay and James Madison. They've already beaten all three of those teams by a cumulative score of 89-0.
“This was a huge win for us, especially against Fort Hamilton which has a great program,” Prestianni said. “Right now we're focused on continuing to dominate every play. We've come up short in the playoffs in the last couple of years and this year we feel like it's our time. We just have to keep our focus and keep playing strong defense.”