Coney Island

Late Comeback propels Lincoln over Grand Street

September 29, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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It looked like Lincoln’s reign as the top high school football team in Brooklyn had finally come to an end. Grand Street was leading with two minutes to play, and the Railsplitters had to move the ball downfield 75 yards to complete a comeback.

On any normal night, 75 yards is nothing to Lincoln. But on Friday, those 75 yards might as well have been the entire length of Flatbush Avenue, as the team struggled offensively all game long. So they gave the ball to the one player having any success that night — Luis Rodriguez.

“We just said at halftime that we’re going to come out and when we get the ball, we’re gonna get the ball in Luis’ hands,” said Lincoln’s head coach Shawn O’Connor. “He is our guy; he’s our go-to guy. He did a tremendous job last year at the end of the playoff run and nobody even talks about this kid. He’s a gutsy kid.”

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With time running out, quarterback Paul Litvak found Rodriguez up the middle and hit him with a perfect pass. Rodriguez broke one tackle, deked another defender and was off and running 75 yards for the touchdown, which led to a 21-18 Lincoln (4-0) victory over Grand Street Campus (3-1) at Aviator on Friday night. For at least one more week, Lincoln is still the king.

“That’s the best moment of my life,” said Rodriguez, who finished with two touchdowns and 169 total yards. “Knowing the stakes, being down by a couple of points with less than two minutes in the game, to be the one catching that game-winning touchdown — that’s the greatest moment ever. That’s something that you can only dream of.”

Lincoln had fallen into a hole early when Grand Street scored on its first drive of the game on a nine-yard run by running back Eugene Qualls to go up 6-0. Lincoln tied the game on the next drive on a one-yard run by Rodriguez, but Grand Street answered back right away, as Justin “Lefty” White found Taysir Mack open for a nine-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter.

Nobody scored for the rest of the half as the two defenses finally settled in. Lincoln grabbed a slim 13-12 lead toward the end of the third quarter when backup quarterback Roget O’Neill scored on a 10-yard run. Grand Street scored early in the fourth to regain an 18-13 lead when White hit Mack, again, with a five-yard touchdown pass.

“We had the chance to put the game away right there; [on the next drive] we had a 3rd-and-1, but they stopped us,” said Grand Street coach Bruce Eugene. “It was that close. We have to be able to finish. We played three quarters, three and a half quarters, we just didn’t finish. Against good teams you have to finish.”

Grand Street did have one final chance to mount its own comeback after Rodriguez’s 75-yard touchdown, but Lincoln’s defense stepped up. Senior linebacker Jordan Nicholson tipped White’s final two pass attempts and tackled running back Rahmel Ashby for a loss.

“I was down the first two quarters, but at halftime, coach challenged the seniors,” Nicholson said. “He told us to be leaders. So when I came back out in the second half, I came out focused. We knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy game, but we went out and fought hard and showed them who owns Brooklyn.”

With the victory, Lincoln is one of just two teams left with an undefeated record in the Public School Athletic League. The other is Erasmus Hall and, coincidentally, the two teams will face each other at Sid Luckman Field in Brooklyn next week.

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