The final offensive stats were ugly: three first downs, 19 rushing yards, two turnovers. The final score – Curtis 20, DeWitt Clinton 8 – was just as tough to stomach for the Governors.
The second straight year, a winning season had ended in the quarterfinals to a Staten Island foe.
“It’s disappointing,” senior defensive back/running back Anthony Smith said. “Second round, two years in a row, couldn’t get by it.”
Smith scored Clinton’s only touchdown, on a 69-yard kickoff return to start the rainy and misty afternoon. The Bronx school’s other two points came when Kwaku Duah sacked Curtis quarterback Tynell Brown in the end zone.
The closest the Governors came to scoring came early in the second half, after Duah stripped Warriors running back Jevon Garden of the ball at the 3-yard line and Smith scooped it up.
“I thought touchdown,” he recalled. “I saw all green and I know my guys always love to block, but I got tripped up.”
Clinton (8-3), still led, 8-6, at the time, but it went three-and-out – one of five such occasions – and Curtis answered with a touchdown, the first of two Gardner scores, to take the lead for good. The Governors’ option attack – which had routinely put up more than 30 points during the regular season – stalled the entire afternoon, responsible for just three first downs. Fullback Patrick Lindo found no running room up the middle. Ditto for speedy back Alanzo Merchant on the outside.
Quarterback Joaquin DeJesus was sacked five times, twice by Penn State-bound Dominique Easley, and failed to generate much with his left arm or legs. Even when he wasn’t hit, the junior was hurried. DeJesus was nursing a groin injury that limited Clinton’s play-calling, Langley said, but the coach didn’t want to take any credit from Curtis.
“This was by far the best ‘D’-line we saw, not even close,” Langley said. “The biggest thing is they are very fast, they fly to the ball. We had a couple of plays where there was an opening and it closed immediately. They were tremendous, defensively.”
As a result, Clinton is done for the season after the quarterfinal round, yet again. As his players licked their wounds, the fifth-year coach watched Curtis (9-2) walk off the field. He talked about the difference in the two teams, how the Warriors play Pop Warner at a young age and many of his kids put on a helmet for the first time when they arrive for tryouts.
“It makes you appreciate the effort it takes to get this point,” Langley said. “New York City football is underrated, the PSAL has a lot of good teams. We’re trying to get into that group, where we’re considered one of the best. We got back to Point A, we know what it looks like and what it’s gonna take to get to the next level. We got to keep working and start again. We represented ourselves well today, we went into the third quarter with a chance to win the football game. We just didn’t have enough for them.”