Well before he stepped on the field at Springfield Gardens High School Sunday morning, Daniel Duah knew his team was destined for greatness.
All he had to do was look at the Franklin K. Lane offensive linemen on the bus ride to the PSAL Cup Division title game.
“Usually they’re fooling around, but they were serious,” Duah said. “I already knew how it was going to go down.”
Duah followed his offensive line all game and helped run Franklin K. Lane to a 42-20 victory over Stuyvesant, securing the program’s first football championship since 1984.
“I didn’t really do nothing special,” Duah said. “My O-line was blocking and I followed my blocks. They executed well, kind of gave me that push and I did what I had to do.”
Although he deflected the praise, Duah was spectacular. The powerful 5-foot-9, 215-pound senior rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. The starting middle linebacker also picked up a fumble and returned it for a 37-yard score.
“I was shocked because I’ve never seen him run like that,” Lane quarterback Rafael Hidalgo said of Duah, who rushed for 219 yards in the entire regular season.
Lane coach Nga Warren wasn’t surprised. He’s seen the work Duah has put in the weight room, joking that Duah’s calves were probably bigger than the coach’s biceps.
“Every time I looked at him he said coach I’ve got your back and I had no doubt he was going to step up and perform today,” Warren said.
Hidalgo helped set the tone for top-seeded Lane (9-1) with a pair of short touchdowns to give the Knights a 14-7 halftime lead.
“When I scored the two touchdowns I was hyped because I like games like this,” the junior said. “I like to be the one to hype everybody up and be the one to change the game.”
After Lane senior Keith Rodriguez recovered the opening kickoff of the second half, Duah took the handoff from Hidalgo and scored a 43-yard touchdown on the Knights first play from scrimmage. Duah added the 2-point conversion to extend Lane’s lead to 22-7.
Alen Makhmudov (19-34, 215 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) connected with Nathaniel Biggs for an 18-yard touchdown, the duo’s second score of the game, to pull second-seeded Stuyvesant (7-3) within 22-13 with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
But two plays later, Duah, a backup to starting running back Rashaun Donald (eight carries, 74 yards) exploded for a 57-yard TD.
Cooper Weaver pulled the Peglegs within a score on an 8-yard run on Stuyvesant’s next possession, but Duah again had the response, first with a 31-yard touchdown run and then picking up a fumble and returning it for a 37-yard score.
“When that fumble happened, I was like, ‘Yeah I got it. I’m doing good today,’” Duah said.
Three years after winning its previous title, the football program was dropped and didn’t resurface until 2005. Duah and his fellow seniors endured some lean years, going a combined 0-19 in their first two seasons and missed the playoffs by one game last year.
That’s what makes this title so special.
“It was a bad experience,” Duah said, “But over time I learned and now I’m here and I do what I had to do for my team… The legacy starts from here.”