A show of resilience and moment of reflection brought Howard Langley to tears.
The 11th-year DeWitt Clinton football coach, who will retire after this season, saw his team rally to beat host and rival Kennedy 30-26 in PSAL City conference football.
“To have the game go the way it did back and forth, us being down and for them to stay with it and come out with a victory is just a tremendous feeling ” Langley said.
The victory brought Langley’s time at the school full circle as receiver Davian Rutledge caught the winning touchdown while wearing the style game socks he wore during his playing day with the Governors. Dashown Wilson Jr., the kid who threw it, shook off what appeared to be a game-deciding fumble to lead his team to the winning drive. Picking yourself back up is what Langley always taught throughout his tenure.
He broke down afterward as he spoke too the group, which has tried hard to make his final year special.
“It just shows how much he cares about the program and how hard he’s done and the time he’s put into the program,” senior running back Edward Nunez said. “It shows that he loves Clinton football and the program itself.”
It appeared Clinton would have a very different emotion when Wilson Jr. fumbled at the Kennedy 2-yard line and saw Chizurum Umunakwe scoop it up and return it 98-yards for a touchdown. The play put the Knights (2-7) up 26-22 with 6:08 to play in the game. Wilson Jr., who also threw touchdowns to William Rivera and Michael Santos, knew he needed to quickly put it all behind him.
“I was crushed, but we had time left and amazing things happen in football, so I just continued to play,” he said.
Wilson Jr., who also ran in the 2-point conversion, led a 7-play, 44-yard drive capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass to Rutledge over middle with 4:15 to play in the contest. He got the socks from the teams in the 1970’s that afternoon from school athletic director Bob Finkelstein, who has saved and worn them over the years.
“Today I thought about coach Langley and the socks,” Rutledge said. “I was like, ‘Coach I got them on. This is for you coach.’”
Clinton led just 16-14 at the half after Kennedy quarterback P.J. Franklyn tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Atkins with 2:12 left in the second quarter. The Knights, who also got a touchdown grab from Thanjhae Teasley, continued that momentum after the break. They took their first lead on a dynamic 18-yard scoring run from Mario Agyen to go up 20-16 with 5:22 to go in the third.
The Governors (5-4) turned to Nunez to get the back into the game. One play after the Agyen score, Nunez ran 57-yards untouched for a touchdown to put Clinton up 22-20. Langley said the staff made a conscious effort to put the ball in Nunez’s hands. Wilson went 7 of 14 passing for with 129 yards and Nunez ran for 186 of his 198 yards in the second half.
“Eddie’s a beast,” the coach said. “That’s our best and we rode him.”
Clinton stopped Kennedy at it 23-yard line to end the contest with help from two sacks by Yannie Gunthrope. The final whistle sent the Governors sprinting in celebration on the field and likely to the playoffs with a team that was young and inexperienced at the start.
“This season has been a bumpy road for us, playing tough teams and tough games” Nunez said. “We got to keep going. Adversity is always going to be there we got to keep fighting.”