Jhamel Cohen learned plenty last winter when he joined the South Shore indoor track team and ran on the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
“It helped me, track really helped me,” Cohen said. “I got faster. It really improved my technique and running.”
The senior applied those lessons to kickstart a second half comeback for the South Shore football team Sunday afternoon at Springfield Gardens High School. Cohen returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and sealed the Vikings 14-13 victory over Grady in the PSAL Bowl Division championship with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
“It was hard man. I didn’t think I was going to do it, but I fought through it,” Cohen said. “I saw an opening and I just swung around and wheeled down the field.”
It was the first PSAL Bowl championship for South Shore (10-1), which continues its renaissance after struggling for a few years on the field. Running back Ibrahima Barry rushed for 97 yards on 14 carries and used a 360-degree spin to dash past a Falcons tackler on a 21-yard touchdown run with 7:51 left in regulation to cap the comeback.
South Shore had a 2-8 record when the school closed and was reorganized into four smaller academies in 2010. Second-year coach Matt Ciquera helped engineer the turnaround to guide the Vikings to the PSAL Cup title game before losing in a heartbreaker to McKee/Staten Island Tech.
“This is what happens when you work hard,” Ciquera said. “They went through a transitional period when the school closed down. The program is back on the rise.”
Grady (10-1), ranked No. 14 in New York City by MSG Varsity, took an early 7-0 lead on a 14-yard touchdown run by quarterback Duwan Hyman in the first quarter.
South Shore needed a spark after Grady running back Desgrottes Marckenson added a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Falcons in front, 13-0, with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cohen dashed across the field, evading tacklers to sprint down the right sideline untouched to give South Shore the momentum and cut the deficit to 13-8.
“Football is a dogfight, that’s what’s my coach is always telling me,” Cohen said. “You go to fight through, make plays.”
With starting running back Ruben Joseph (17 carries for 149 yards) hampered with an ankle sprain, the Falcons offense slowed.
Vikings defensive back Timothy Bowers intercepted a Hyman pass deep in Grady territory in the fourth quarter. Barry then took the second-down handoff to slip past a tackler and complete his 21-yard dash to the end zone in a play that he couldn’t find the words to describe.
“That run, I don’t know what to say,” Barry said. “I thought I was going to get tackled and all of that. I got it.”
Cohen intercepted a pass with 1:24 remaining to end the final Grady offensive drive as South Shore avenged its lone loss of the season, a 30-26 defeat to Grady in Week 6.
“It’s a championship game, they just stepped up,” Grady coach Andrew Jashyn said. “Wrong guy. Wrong pass. Things like that happen.”
After reaching the Cup and Bowl division finals in back-to-back year – and winning the Bowl championship Sunday – Ciquera believes he has a program that can now compete at the PSAL’s highest level next season.
“The Bowl Division didn’t scare me,” Ciquera said. “I knew that our work ethic and the kids we had would definitely be successful in this level.”