Tarik Hawkins ran off the field the same way he ran onto it. The Mount St. Michael junior held a photo collage remembering teammate Kyle Rembert, who died of carbon monoxide in his grandmother’s home on Nov. 7, up high for all to see. It was one of many ways the Mountaineers remembered him. There were No. 45 stickers on the back of every helmet, 45 in eye black in many of their faces or written on wrist bands and towels. Quarterback Jaylen Amaker and fullback Gary Acquah carried Rembert’s jersey out for the game.
Then there was their play on the field.
The Mountaineers fought through the emotion of a trying week and fended off a resilient and feisty St. Francis Prep team for a 28-21 win in the CHSFL AA semifinals in The Bronx Sunday afternoon.
“It’s been really emotional,” Hawkins said. “Most of the team hasn’t gotten a bunch of sleep. Today was kind of shaky coming out because we were still thinking about him. We came out here and got the job done for him.”
Hawkins was very close to Rembert, a junior running back, and has used his friend’s death as inspiration in Mount’s two playoff wins. He rushed for 65 yards on 10 carries and caught touchdown passes of 41 and 8 yards including the go head score on Mount’s first play off the fourth quarter against SFP. It put Mount up 28-14.
“I was just trying to do it for him,” Hawkins said. “He is my motivation. He and my team, they are my family. I had to do it for them.”
Acquah, who rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, scored on a 1-yard run as the Mountaineers (4-5) ate up the clock late in the fourth quarter. St. Francis (2-8) scored quickly, to give themselves a chance, with a 4-play, 79-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard run by quarterback Brendan Stackpole with 1:08 left to make it 28-21. The Mountaineer recovered the onside kick.
“That was what we used to raise ourselves to victory,” Acquah said of Rembert’s memory. “We were like this is not for us. This is for Kyle. So we have to come out on top.”
Mount, after an exhausting week, appeared like it was ready to coast to win. The players attend a prayer service for Rembert on Thursday, his wake Friday and the funeral Saturday morning and were riding that emotion to a 14-0 second quarter lead.
St. Francis Prep jumped back into the game on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Stackpole to Conner Creegan and tied the score shortly after a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Keith Carrington with 5:26 left in the half. The Terriers had a chance to take the lead right before the break after Chris McClean pick off Amaker in Mount territory. The Mountaineers defense held the Terrier without a point.
He said he was impressed with his players’ ability to dig deep late. The Mountaineers will have no problem getting up for its next contest. The AA title game will also be their annual Thanksgiving Day matchup with rival Cardinal Hayes 10:30 a.m. at Mount St. Michael. The Cardinals won the annual contest for the first time in 28 years last season.
“We are coming for them on Thanksgiving,” Acquah said.