By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Eramus Hall head football coach Danny Landberg knows this weekend will be a little different for his top-ranked and undefeated Dutchmen.
"I'm really proud of the way [our team is] mentally focused," Landberg told the Eagle Wednesday as his team continued to prepare for Saturday's high noon showdown with defending city champion Lincoln, the team that denied Erasmus the title last December at Yankee Stadium.
"It’s more than just a regular game."
There's no denying that.
The Dutchmen (6-0, 545 power points) have emerged as the team to beat out of our fair borough as playoff time approaches, but Lincoln (5-1, 443 power points), which dealt Erasmus a hard-to-swallow 20-12 defeat in the "House That Steinbrenner Built" last winter, remains as perhaps the biggest obstacle in Landberg's quest to nab the Brooklyn school's first PSAL grid title since 1987.
"Lincoln gets a little more attention than we get," noted Landberg, who is glad to have the epic regular-season clash on his home turf at Brooklyn's Sid Luckman Field. “It’s always great to be home. Our fans are very supportive. Our kids deserve that."
Last weekend, the Dutchmen derailed winless Fort Hamilton's homecoming with a gritty 14-0 victory in Bay Ridge for their second shutout win of the season, marking the sixth straight contest in which they've held an opponent to 14 points or fewer.
But the past is simply prologue for Landberg, who knows his team must step up its effort against a Lincoln squad whose lone blemish this season came at the hands of No. 2 Tottenville (6-0, 512) in a 29-28 Week Two overtime defeat on Sept. 14.
“As far as our record is concerned, we can still do a lot better than we are," said Landberg. "We need to play smart football and give our all and come together as one to a greater cause.”
On their way to the title game last winter, the Dutchmen relied heavily on senior quarterback Wayne Morgan, arguably the best player in the entire city a season ago. But this year's crew is without an individual leader, something Landberg believes is a positive as responsibility is doled out evenly among his title-hungry players.
The Railsplitters, fresh off last Saturday's 38-18 rout of visiting Canarsie, know how the Dutchmen feel.
Last year they were the team hoping to make a late-season statement against an arch Brooklyn rival after suffering a gutwrenching 8-6 loss to Fort Hamilton in the 2010 city championship game in the Bronx. Lincoln eventually rolled over the Tigers, 22-0, in the rematch last November before posting four straight playoff wins to cap a memorable undefeated campaign.
“To be on the other side of it now, you try not to look back at last year’s team," Lincoln coach Shawn O'Connor told the Eagle Wednesday. "We’re just taking it as a regular game. It means a lot to us to have the status of Brooklyn No. 1, but we don’t want to bank everything on this at this point because we have two more games after this."
"We do understand there’s a lot of power points at stake," added O'Connor, who admitted he wasn't sure just how high the 'Splitters could rise from their current No. 7 ranking with a win Saturday. "This could lead us closer to being the elite team in Brooklyn"
Junior running back Antoine Holloman Jr. figures to be the key to the Lincoln attack after gaining 222 yards and scoring two touchdowns in last weekend's victory over the Chiefs. The Dutchmen will counter with senior quarterback Matthew Domina, who completed 8-of-13 passes for 177 yards and two TDs against the Tigers, as well as the running back tandem of Curtis Samuel and Kahlil Lewin.
Lincoln, which has not been as strong defensively as it was last year, knows the challenge of holding the Dutchmen at bay is a significant one entering Week Seven.
"You can’t make these little mistakes against Erasmus," O'Connor warned before praising his team's ability to play with a bullseye on its back this season as reigning city champs. “The great thing about this season so far is I think my guys have handled it well. They’ve risen up to the challenge so far."
Adding a little extra heat to Saturday's clash was the announcement that it would be televised on MSG Varsity. Fans will be able to tune in the game live via internet on www.msgvarsity.com/livecast before catching a replay on Optimum TV Channel 14 Monday night at 7:30 p.m.
“Lincoln High School and Erasmus Hall are two of the best football teams in the PSAL right now,” said Michael Lardner, Executive Producer and Senior Vice President of MSG Varsity. “We are thrilled to be sharing this rematch of last year’s championship game with our viewers."