Time was beginning to run out for a Curtis Warriors team that committed three turnovers in the second half and was minutes away from allowing a city championship to potentially slip through its grasp.
Junior quarterback Quincy Barnes remained confident despite having to convert a critical fourth down and 20 late in the fourth quarter. Barnes delivered a 44-yard scoring pass to teammate Amad Anderson for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:25 remaining to help top-seed Curtis rally for a 24-21 victory over the Dutchmen and win their sixth city championship at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.
“Coach 'Gambo' [Peter Gambardella] called an excellent play. The offensive line did a great job helping me out and letting me buy time. I have to buy them dinner tonight,” Barnes said. “They gave me as much time as I needed and I saw Amad one-on-one and what else would you want to choose than Amad Anderson one-on-one with anybody.”
The Warriors overcame five turnovers to complete a perfect campaign with a 12-0 record and are ranked first in New York City and No. 9 in the Tri-State Top 25 poll by News 12 Varsity.
The Curtis defense has been overshadowed at times by its high scoring offense this season came up big in the second half to keep Erasmus Hall off the scoreboard. Obinna Nwosu made an impact on the defensive line with two key sacks in the fourth quarter and his team held Dutchmen quarterback Aron Cruickshank from making impact plays.
“Hey we was in shooting distance. As long as we were right in the mix then that was it,” an excited Warriors coach Peter Gambardella said. “ I can’t be more prouder of these group of guys.”
The game was a tale of two halves to be sure. The first 24 minutes looked to be a replica of the high scoring affair that had seen Curtis rally with a two-touchdown deficit with five minutes remaining in the regular season to win 44-42 over Erasmus Hall.
Lawton (15 attempts, 119 yards) got the ball rolling on the Warriors first possession by taking a handoff from Barnes and running untouched on a 69-yard rushing score early in the first quarter. Josh DeCambre leaped to grab the ball at the 10-yard line and carried two defenders into the end zone for a 30-yard reception to put the top seed up 12-0 midway in the first quarter.
Herson Telsaint electrified the Dutchmen by shedding a tackler and reversing field to score a 66-yard kickoff return touchdown to put EHall on the board. Dejouree Addison dived into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run for the No. 2 seed to take its first lead at 14-12 with 8:15 remaining in the first half.
Erasmus Hall’s Jahquel Webb grabbed a floating pass from Barnes (8 for 20, 176 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT) in the end zone to stop a potential Warriors offensive drive. Shamar Logan to scamper into the end zone for a 18-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left in the first half to increase Erasmus Hall’s lead to 21-12.
DeCambre helped his team cut the deficit to 21-18 with 1:17 left in the first half with another impressive 35-yard catch and an eventual touchdown run.
Curtis would shoot itself figuratively in the foot despite making big gains in the second half. Ty Son Lawton fumbled twice on the ground and Barnes had been stripped of the football with Erasmus Hall’s Selwin Wilks recovering at the Warriors 44 yard line late in the third quarter.
But the Warriors defense picked up the slack and Erasmus Hall punted the ball away four times in the second half. The electric Anderson, who had been held in check for most of the night, sped past the EHall secondary near the end zone to haul in the 44-yard touchdown pass to ignite the Curtis home crowd.
“I was getting double coverage the whole game. I knew my time was going to come if I was patient. I was patient. The time came and God is good,” Anderson said. “Our defense has gotten our offense rolling. When the defense is good, our offense can get it going and that’s what happened.”
It was an excruciating finish for the Dutchmen, who lost in their third straight title appearance to end the season at 10-2 and ranked No. 11 in the News 12 Varsity Top 25 Tri-State rankings. Cruickshank had 26 rushes for 70 yards but Erasmus Hall only made one first down in the final 2 quarters.
“We couldn’t move the ball. Their defense was making the stops and we couldn’t move the ball,” Cruickshank said. “Very frustrating. We got to work hard all off-season and I will miss the seniors but we got to try to get back here next season.”
Barnes had always wanted a shot at winning a title going back to his youth football days playing with the Staten Island Hurricanes. The junior quarterback and many of his teammates came to Curtis and fulfilled a life-long ambition.
“When we lost in Florida a few years ago, we said we will be back and we never got the chance to crown ourselves champions,” Barnes said. “Now I feel like we are top of the world at Yankee Stadium; the house that Jeter built and I’m so happy for my team. “