Curtis Samuel knew that amidst the crowd clearing the stands and numerous reporters clamoring for his attention that his team had accomplished multiple goals.
“This week at practice, we made sure to work extra hard,” the Erasmus junior running back said. “Both teams wanted to come out and win and even more so because it was televised... nobody wants to lose on TV.”
On a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon with an abundant home crowd, Erasmus defeated Boys & Girls, 24-14, by utlilizing its potent ground game in a much-anticipated PSAL Championship division match-up broadcast live on MSGVarsity.com.
The game was the first major test for both undefeated teams.
“It’s a big win,” Erasmus junior running back Kahlil Lewin said. “We were two teams that were both 4-0 and someone had to get the win. We leave this field on top because of hard work and dedication.”
For two teams predicated on running, the weather conditions only meant that the ball wasn’t going to see much time in the air. And true to form, the day was dominated by handoffs.
Lewin and Samuel combined for 226 of theiir team's 240 total yards on the ground.
Landberg was effusive when talking about his running backs after the game, heaping praise upon them for their big day.
“I was worried about the weather, but Curtis Samuel and Kahlil Lewin are awesome,” Landberg said. “They are two of the best backs in the city and they took care of things today.”
“Before every game, Kahlil and I talk about how we have to dominate the game and how we have to boost the team up,” Samuel added.
On the other side, the Kangaroos' vaunted running back trio of Najee Champagne, Nathan Miller, and Richardson Derosena had their moments. Champagne set the tone early with a 30-yard run to start the game that eventually led to a 2-yard touchdown by senior Malik Reid less then two minutes in.
Samuel answered for the Dutchmen with 7:35 to go with a diving run on fourth and goal.
The next possession for the Kangaroos started promisingly with Champagne rushing for some big gains. But on his third touch, Champaign was stripped by junior linebacker Maynor Oregon to give the ball back to the Dutchmen. Three plays later, Samuel picked up his second touchdown of the day with a 20-yard run with 1:07 left in the second quarter.
Erasmus (5-0), ranked No. 3 in New York City by MSG Varsity, scored again with 4:01 left in the third quarter when quarterback Jonathan Samerson connected with Samuel on a 13-yard pass for Samuel's third touchdown of the game. Samuel finished with 70 rushing yards and the 13-yard reception.
“To me, this was Curtis’ coming out party, because it really showed how separate he is from everybody else,” Landberg said. “He’s an unbelievable football player and athlete. He has shown me that he can take it to another level like a Wayne Morgan… or maybe even past that. He’s so athletically gifted that he can play anywhere in the country.”
While he didn’t finish with any touchdowns, Lewin did amass an impressive 156 yards on the ground on 24 carries.
“Kahlil stepped his game up and I actually thought he could have done even better,” Landberg said. “For the yards that he had, I actually think that he could have gotten more because he has that ability. His leg power and his vision are incredible and we’re going to keep working him.”
Samerson, who plays both sides of the ball, recorded one of the big defensive plays of the game when he intercepted senior Kangaroos quarterback Keon Marsh in Boys & Girls’ own red zone with two minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Kangaroos proved that they weren’t without opportunities as they again found themselves in the red zone for a potential touchdown moments later. But a fumble in the end zone that was recovered by Erasmus junior Darin Peart again killed a potential score.
“This is a game of yards and inches and you can’t win the game if you don’t have the ball,” Landberg said. “We tried to take the ball out of their hands as much as possible. I knew with their type of offense that if you got the ball out of their hands, then it was going to be hard for them to come back and that’s what it came down to.”
Erasmus’ final touchdown came off an 11-yard run from senior Jose Mathews with just 3:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. No. 5 Boys & Girls (4-1) picked up another touchdown with 1:06 to go on a 5-yard touchdown from Derosena, but there just wasn’t enough time on the clock to get multiple possessions.
The game was big for both teams as they have the longest high school football rivalry in New York City. It was an occasion that even outside of their records meant bragging rights for both sides.
Landberg acknowledged the rivalry, but also spoke about the importance of Week 6.
“This is a rivalry game for us, so the kids were up for that,” Landberg said. “Right now, not to sound cliché, but we’re just worried about Fort Hamilton next week. That’s just where we are at. I’m scared of everybody every week because someone can always come out of nowhere and punch you in the mouth.”