Clinton’s momentum rolls over New Dorp

Clinton’s Dominique Warren (22) and Alonzo Merchant are jubilant after a big win against New Dorp. Photo by Damion Reid

Howard Langley knew there was one major key to his DeWitt Clinton football team’s success this year: the play of fullback/linebacker Onell Dishmey. But the bruising senior, nicknamed “Bus,” had a right leg injury that had curtailed his production.

“Our motto at the beginning of the season was ‘Ride the Bus,’” Langley said. “He had a few punctured wheels early.”

They seem to be patched up now.

Dishmey had a momentum-changing 44-yard interception return for a touchdown and an 8-yard scoring run within 90 seconds of each other in the third quarter to give the Governors the lead for good. Clinton, which came back from a 12-point halftime deficit, went on to beat New Dorp, 36-27, Saturday on Staten Island in the PSAL City Championship division.

“It turned everything around,” Clinton running back Alonzo Merchant said of Dishmey’s pick six. “We were going crazy on the sidelines.”

Merchant did his part, too. He rushed for 132 yards on 10 carries and broke through for a 75-yard run with 9:30 left in the game. Four plays later, Merchant scored on a 5-yard plunge to put the Governors ahead for good, 30-27. New Dorp (3-1) went up, 27-22, on Matt Popovic’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Bratcher with 5:38 left in the third.

Clinton (3-1) had much more intensity after the break, especially on defense. In the first half, Popovic (13-33, 150 yards passing and 71 yards on 16 carries) had his way, hitting Bratcher for two touchdowns. The Governors were in his face in the second half, forcing him into a pair of interceptions, the latter by Joseph Flores to seal the game.

“It was the energy,” Dishmey said. “We needed the energy.”

Clinton actually got on the board first, using a 56-yard return by Merchant on the opening kickoff to start its drive. On the Governors’ second play from scrimmage, quarterback Joaquin DeJesus dove in for a 3-yard touchdown. New Dorp scored the next 21 points, though, all of them either Popovic throws or runs, to take a 21-8 lead into halftime.

In the locker room, Langley implored his team to focus. More than anything, the coach said the Governors needed to stop Popovic, a strategy that worked.

“He’s a top, quality player and he was the main focus,” Langley said.

For the second straight week, Clinton has faced an opponent from Staten Island, the league’s powerhouse borough, and taken games from previously unbeaten squads. The Governors bested Wagner, 22-20, in Week 3.

“This is tremendous,” Langley said. “Staten Island? On the road? A 3-0 team? C’mon, I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

If Saturday was a test of how good Clinton is and how good it can be, the Governors produced solid results.

“Our objective is to be recognized as one of the best,” Langley said, “as one of the top teams in the city.”

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