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Underdogs No More: Erasmus Hall beats Fort Hamilton in PSAL quarterfinals

November 26, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Several plays contributed to Erasmus Hall’s 26-14 victory over Fort Hamilton on Saturday, including a fumble recovered and returned for a touchdown by Aaron John (24). Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Back in August, Erasumus Hall’s head coach Danny Landberg looked at his team and was not sure how good it would be. Gone were All-Americans Curtis Samuel and Wayne Morgan, and in their place was a group comprised mostly of underclassmen. At one point, Landberg even suggested that Fort Hamilton was better than his team.

After barely beating Fort Hamilton in October, the Erasmus Hall Dutchmen were put to the test again last Saturday — but the team came through, and once again looked like the best team in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), reaching a 26-14 victory in the quarterfinals.

“I am surprised,” Landberg admitted. “I didn’t think this would be that type of year. I thought it would be a year of rebuilding. You lose guys like Curtis Samuel, Kahlil Lewin, Jose Duncan and Darin Peart. Those are guys that went on to play major football.

“Let’s just say I’m happy to be wrong.”

The last time the two teams played, Fort Hamilton jumped out to a big lead early on in the game, so this time around, Erasmus Hall hoped to be the aggressive team at the outset. To change things up, Keon Gravenhise took the bulk of the snaps early on, rather than quarterback Aaron Grant. This paid off, as Gravenhise ate up most of the field before he handed it off to Kefa Cort for a 17-yard touchdown run that put the Dutchmen up 7-0 four minutes in.

Fort Hamilton answered right back when sophomore sensation Troy Booker scored on a 10-yard touchdown run up the middle to cut the lead to 7-6.

Any momentum Fort Hamilton gained did not last long, and Erasmus Hall kept up its offense using various weapons to keep its opponent guessing throughout the game. Jahsen Wint scored on a two-yard run to go up 14-6. Aaron John scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown to make it 20-6. Finally, Jahquel Webb scored on a nine-yard run to make it 26-6, just before halftime.

“We had to [play aggressive early] because the last time we played them, we let them get comfortable,” Gravenhise said. “They thought they could beat us and we didn’t like that; our defense didn’t like that. So we worked hard in practice and came out and proved them wrong.”

Fort Hamilton’s Devon Watts picked off a pass early in the second half and ran it back 75 yards to Erasmus’ 10-yard line. However, the Tigers blew their chance to regain momentum, as they quickly went three-and-out and turned the ball over at the 11. Booker was the team’s only offensive threat that day, and once Erasmus realized that, it didn’t take long to shut him down.

Fort Hamilton did manage one more touchdown, on a three-yard run by quarterback Sharif Legree, but Erasmus Hall’s defense allowed very little else. Daevon Alvarez made sure of that, thanks to a late interception that finished off the game.

Early in the season, Landberg said that since this team no longer had Superman (Samuel) or Batman (Morgan), it would have to perform like the X-Men — a group rather than one powerful individual. That is exactly what the players have done.

Erasmus Hall scored 26 points against one of the better teams in the PSAL, and did so as its quarterback only threw 38 yards, none of its running backs had more than 64 yards and no receiver had more than 28 yards.

“It’s a lot of heart from the underclassmen and the seniors,” said Rutgers University commit Deonte Roberts. “Everybody is just giving it their all. We don’t want to go out with sad faces; we want to go out with a memory that we just won everything. We keep working hard, keep pushing and keep fighting. We all want to contribute. We all play a part.”

Erasmus Hall now heads to the PSAL semifinals where it will face Curtis, a team it beat 22-0 earlier this season. However, Erasmus’ only loss this year was to Tottenville, a team that just lost 20-6 to Curtis.

“Curtis can be a real big problem,” Landberg said. “Them beating Tottenville is a really big deal. Staten Island football, they do a good job out there. We have a lot of respect for those guys. We have to give them our best game with those guys. To take them lightly would be a tremendous mistake.”

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