From the time he painfully had to watch from the sideline with a broken leg as Lincoln beat Erasmus Hall for the PSAL Championship Division title last year, Curtis Samuel made it his goal to get back to Yankee Stadium.
And with the Dutchmen trailing midway through the third quarter Tuesday night in The Bronx, the junior running back knew it was his time to heal old wounds.
“I saw that we were losing and I knew I had to go out there and make a big play for my team,” Samuel said.
He did just that. Running the wildcat, Samuel willed the Dutchmen down the field. His 53-yard run helped set up Jonathan Samerson’s 3-yard touchdown and Samuel added what proved to be the winning 2-point conversion as Erasmus Hall defeated Tottenville, 15-14, to capture its first-ever PSAL title.
The top-seeded Dutchmen (12-0) capped an undefeated season and exorcised the demons from last year’s loss in the title game.
“It’s a very exciting feeling,” Samuel said. “It will last forever.”
Samuel did a bit of everything Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. He rushed for 117 yards, had three receptions for 41 yards and had a 37-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
“Best player I’ve ever coached, best player I’ve ever coached at Erasmus,” Erasmus coach Danny Landberg said. “No question.”
His biggest contribution, though, came after Tottenville quarterback Brandon Barnes orchestrated a 10-play, 78-yard drive capped by his 4-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion to Devin Martin to put the second-seeded Pirates in front, 14-7, with 4:54 left in the third quarter.
“It was time for the Curtis package,” Landberg said. “I said if we’re going to pull it out, pull it out now. That’s what we did. We didn’t care if the blocks were going to be made or not, we just figured Curtis was going to make something happen.”
For the first time all year, Samuel ran the wildcat and helped set up Samerson’s touchdown and then added the all-important 2-point conversion with 2:07 left in the third quarter.
“On the 2-point conversion, I saw a hole and me and [James Munson] head to head and I knew I could get over top of him to get the 2-point conversion,” Samuel said.
The Dutchmen defense made the result stand, forcing the Pirates (10-2) into a pair of three-and-outs before Loumell Petion broke up an attempted pass by backup quarterback Joshua Rainey with 2:13 left in the fourth.
The Pirates defense, though, responded by stopping E-Hall and taking over on their own 40 with 40 seconds left.
Rainey, who replaced an injured Barnes on the Pirates final two series, connected with Thomas Wilson and twice with Deion Barnes, moving the ball to the Erasmus Hall 28-yard line with five seconds left.
But Rainey was sacked by Tysene Foster, Rujel Henry and Oumar Coulibaly to end the game and spark a celebration decades in the making.
“I was shocked,” Coulibaly said. “I didn’t look at the time, I was just going for it. I didn’t know how many minutes were there, how many seconds were left. I was just going all out with all I have.”
The win was especially emotional for Landberg, who has been displaced from his Belle Harbor home that was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. He said he’s heard a lot of the talk about him not being able to win the big one, but he put that to rest under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.
“I fight a lot of demons and a lot of things in my life, but most of all I’ve got my boys and they really are the medicine for me,” Landberg said. “I need them more than they need me. I’m just thankful and blessed I have them with me.”