John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In a game unofficially billed as "The Battle for Brooklyn Bragging Rights", Erasmus Hall earned the right to boast last Saturday afternoon at Sid Luckman Field.
"We're the best in Brooklyn!" yelled junior Curtis Samuel after displaying his versatility in all three phases of the game as the Dutchmen held on for a dramatic 27-26 victory over the Lincoln Railsplitters in a rematch of last December's city championship game at Yankee Stadium.
Erasmus (7-0, 725 power points) remained atop the Bowl Championship Division standings, and perhaps more importantly, earned a measure of revenge, albeit a small one, for a gutwrenching 20-12 loss to Lincoln (5-2, 483) in last year's memorable title tilt.
Samuel rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield, caught a 12-yard pass from senior quarterback Matthew Domina, made six tackles, including one for loss, on defense, and gave the Dutchmen a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter wtih a dazzling 55-yard punt return for a score late in the fourth quarter.
Despite his brilliant three-way performance, Samuel and his teammates still had to sweat out a final drive by the reigning city champs, who scored with just over a minute and a half remaining to set up what proved to be the game's decisive play.
Lincoln quarterback Javon Moore, who completed 14-of-20 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown, dropped back on a potential game-winning two-point conversion attempt, was forced to his right by a furious Erasmus pass rush and watched his final attempt batted in the air and to the ground as the 'Splitters came up just shy in their bid to re-establish themselves as the team to beat out of our fair borough.
Domina, a transfer from Nazareth High who wasn't part of the Dutchmen's bitter defeat in the Bronx 10 months ago, understood the importance of scoring a major win over a Brooklyn rival with only two weeks remaining before the BCD playoffs.
"I wasn't here last year, but I knew they wanted this one," said Domina, who finished 12-for-20 for 197 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his biggest start of the year.
“I started to warm up [during Lincoln's final drive] because I knew we might have to go back out there and score," admitted Domina. "But I had faith that our defense would hold them. I wasn’t really worried.”
Though they relished the victory heartily, the Dutchmen also realized that their ultimate goal this season is still very much in front of them. After toppling Lincoln, Erasmus must now find a way to get through fourth-ranked Brooklyn rival Jefferson (6-1, 555) this weekend before a regular season-ending showdown with fellow unbeaten No. 2 Tottenville (7-0, 653) on Nov. 3 that will likely determine the top seed for the postseason.
"We have a couple of tough opponents in Jefferson and Tottenville to get ready for," Domina admitted.
Though the tough loss left the 'Splitters reeling a bit, they won't have time to lick their wounds as they visit resurgent Sheepshead Bay (4-3, 367) on Saturday before wrapping up the regular season at home against winless Fort Hamilton (0-7) on Nov. 2.
Regardless of their final playoff seedings, Erasmus and Lincoln are both likely to enter November as legitimate contenders for the throne, and a third meeting between the Brooklyn rivals in 12 months is certainly not out of the question.
The 'Splitters, who lost the PSAL title game to Fort Hamilton in 2010, will be vying for their third straight trip to Yankee Stadium in search of a second straight championship, while the Dutchmen continue to pursue their first city title since 1987.
Not to be left out of the championship discussion, Jefferson enters Saturday's game against the Dutchmen off a wild 42-36 overtime victory at New Utrecht last weekend.
High School All-American Ebenezer Ogundeko made a game-high 11 tackles for the Orange Wave, who overcame a 30-8 halftime deficit behind the arm of senior Al-Amin Stewart Jr. (two TD passes) and the legs of fourth-year back Kendall Thomas (111 yards, 3 TDs).
No. 3 Boys and Girls (6-1, 580) nearly suffered a stunning loss to the thus-far toothless Tigers in Bay Ridge before pulling out a 26-21 triumph on the strength of 14 fourth-quarter points to remain in the hunt for a high playoff seed. The Kangaroos' only defeat came at the hands of the Dutchmen on Oct. 12.
“We had the lead twice but couldn’t hold it," lamented Fort Hamilton coach Daniel Perez, who led the Tigers to their third city championship in six years during his first season at the helm in 2010. "We had hopes [of] making the playoffs but now that’s kaput.”
On the local private school sporting scene, the Brooklyn Friends girls' varsity soccer team made history Monday, blanking Bay Ridge Prep, 6-0, for the first league championship in the eight-year history of the program.
Coach Gary Lawson's squad got three goals from junior captain Julia Greenwald and individual tallies by Clara Seigmund, Naya Cuprill and Halima Matthews to complete a perfect run through the Independent Schools Athletic League regular season, setting up Thursday's 4 p.m. playoff final showdown against Birch Wathen Lennox at Red Hook Field.