It seems like everything at Lincoln High School is bigger than life, from the mammoth building on Ocean Parkway to the Coney Island school’s basketball championships at Madison Square Garden and December’s PSAL city football title victory at Yankee Stadium.
So it’s only fitting that Wednesday morning’s signing day ceremony was the largest ever at Lincoln as six Railsplitters inked National Letters of Intent.
“This is all you can ask for to see myself and my brothers accomplish great things,” Robert Kitching said. “I fought the wars with them, they’re going to fight some wars without me. I’m just glad they have the opportunity to get a college degree and make something of themselves.”
Kitching (UMass), Kareem Folkes (C.W. Post), Keyon Barnwell (C.W. Post), Tarik Pusey (Rhode Island), Armani Gordon (Southern Connecticut) and Denzel Duchenne (Virginia Union) all helped guide Lincoln to an undefeated championship season and signed together in a ceremony in the school’s library.
“This is like a cherry on top to a perfect season,” Pusey said.
In fact, Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor puts Wednesday’s accomplishment ahead of the 20-12 victory over Erasmus Hall at the big ballpark in The Bronx.
“This is much better,” MSG Varsity’s All-Metro Coach of the Year said. “Obviously the championship is a memory that will last a long time, but these kids graduating and going to college will affect a lot more people in society and it will affect more kids in the program in the future.”
Kitching, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound beast, was the linchpin of the Railsplitters offensive and defensive lines. He had 43 tackles and 10 sacks, earning first-team All-City honors by MSG Varsity.
Kitching said he fell in love with UMass on his official visit and can’t wait to play games at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots. The Flatbush native verbally committed on Monday, just two days before donning a Minutemen hat and signing his scholarship papers. Kitching said the UMass support system was a big reason he chose the Division-I MAC school.
“The players are into it, the coaches are into it, the whole city is into it,” Kitching said. “Playing in Gillette Stadium is going to be a great experience. I’m a Giants fan, but just being in that type of environment is going to be great.”
Folkes was the only player among the six who’s college choice was unknown coming into the day. MSG Varsity’s All-City Player of the Year was a late qualifier and, following a long talk with his parents on Tuesday night, decided it was better to go with a sure thing at C.W. Post then wait for another opportunity.
“I still had other options, but this was the best option for me,” Folkes said. “I’m close to home and my family and it’s a good school…I don’t know what the future holds for me, but as long as I graduate from a good academic school like C.W. Post, I have a real good future ahead of me.”
Folkes, who along with Kitching were the lone returning starters from a Lincoln squad that lost in the PSAL final last year, was one of the biggest reasons why the Railsplitters won their first title since 1993.
Folkes rushed for 1,756 yards and a PSAL-best 28 touchdowns and then came up with two championship-clinching pass deflections in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter at Yankee Stadium despite being hampered with a high ankle sprain.
Barnwell, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound two-way lineman who was named to MSG Varsity’s Top 100 players in New York City in the preseason, said he saw similarities in C.W. Post’s coaching staff as the one he was comfortable with at Lincoln.
“You can see the chemistry with the players and the coaching staff,” Barnwell said. “I figured if I go there, I could have similar results as I did at Lincoln,”
Gordon, a 6-foot-2, 310-pound two-way lineman was integral in creating holes for Folkes and Jessel Jones and was one of the best run-stuffers in the city with 24 tackles. Gordon said he liked that Southern Connecticut in New Haven was close enough to home, but far enough that he has his freedom.
“Every senior wants to leave with a ring, everybody wants to go undefeated,” Gordon said. “I just enjoyed the experience of doing it with my teammates.”
Pusey, another two-way standout at linebacker and receiver, verbally committed to URI Jan. 22, choosing the Rams over Wagner, Stony Brook and Albany. The Flatbush native made 36 tackles, scored two defensive touchdowns and had 16 receptions for 202 yards and three scores as a wide receiver.
“When I went up there on my official visit, it reminded me of Lincoln,” Pusey said. “It was a family out there and on top of that I have [Selwyn Nicholas] who used to be on this team last year that go there now. He gave me an inside scoop on how everything is run.”
The 5-foot-6, 155-pound Duchenne had 27 tackles, four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns, while also adding five rushing TDs, eight receiving scores and a punt return to the house. He was one of Lincoln’s unsung heroes.
“For a guy of my stature, this is a great experience,” Duchenne said. “I don’t see too many little dudes getting full scholarships. It’s a tremendous experience for me and my family.”
Last year, four players were part of a National Signing Day ceremony, but O’Connor pointed out a total of nine earned college scholarships. He’s hoping to beat that number this year. Jones, the star quarterback, has a partial scholarship offer from C.W. Post, but thinks more opportunities might open up in the near future.
As for Lincoln’s future, it’s big and bright, according to Folkes.
“They have a bunch of up-and-coming young guys,” Folkes said. “They’re going to come…Coach is going to get it done.”
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