Football had taken a backseat at Brooklyn Tech in the days following Hurricane Sandy as the school is one of several designated evacuation centers throughout the city for those displaced by the storm.
Finally this week, practice resumed for the Engineers, who never lost sight of the playoffs and had extra incentive given that their first round opponent, John F. Kennedy, gave them their last and most contentious loss before their eight-game winning streak.
“We lost over a week with the storms and that definitely threw us off,” Brooklyn Tech running back James Gales said. “When we came back, our helmets were tighter but we worked through it. We had to get readjusted to our pads, but after Monday and Tuesday, we got back into the swing of things.”
Led by Gales, Brooklyn Tech reaped revenge on JFK with a dominating 36-0 shutout Saturday afternoon in the opening round of PSAL Championship Division playoffs in Brooklyn.
“It’s definitely gratifying,” Gales said. “During the hurricane, we looked at the schedule to see who we were going to play and we just got excited. That game that we lost was heart breaking and we immediately said we had to get this win. We just came out and executed.”
“We got our two practices at the beginning of the week and then the snow came,” added Brooklyn Tech head coach Kyle McKenna. “We got back in the snow on Thursday. It was rewarding to get back together and to go out there and win. It was just nice to get back and work together.”
Unlike their first matchup with No. 9 JFK (5-4), finding the end zone was not an issue for the eighth-ranked Engineers this time.
Brooklyn Tech (7-2) got things rolling when senior quarterback Brandon Schneider connected with senior receiver Kyvaune Brammer for a 19-yard touchdown as time expired in the first quarter.
Kareem Ellis followed with a 60-yard punt return with 9:41 to go in the second quarter.
Later in the quarter, Gales broke free for an 81-yard highlight-worthy touchdown that was called back because of a holding penalty. But if that play was any indication, it would be only a matter of time before Gales would get a chance at another big-yardage play.
On the first play of the Engineers next possession, the talented running back had an even more spectacular run, bursting down the field for a 92-yard touchdown with 2:21 to go in the second quarter.
In the waning minutes of the third quarter, Schneider connected with Ellis for a 27-yard pass that set Gales up for his second touchdown of the game as the seconds expired in the period.
Gales finished with 15 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Given the ease with which Gales consistently puts up numbers week in and out, it can be easy to overlook his contributions. But McKenna knows all too well the value of his running back.
“Never can we take for granted the things that these guys do,” McKenna said. “James [Gales] is such a steady contributor on offense and on defense. He has the ability to shut down both sides of the field. I never overlook it. He’s always someone that I have on my mind as far as game plan.”
Elijah Rueda connected with senior wide receiver Jalen Smalls for a 38-yard touchdown with 6:55 to go in game to put the ribbon on the game.
Of all the players on his team, Schneider may have felt the storms the most because he lives in the Sea Gate section of Coney Island. The senior and his family were evacuated from Zone A before the storm and have been piecing things back together in the aftermath.
“I lost power for a short period during the hurricane [Sandy] and again during the Nor’easter, but given my circumstances in relation to a lot of people things could have been much worse,” McKenna said. “That’s why I’m thankful that for the most part, the majority of us weren’t affected too badly.”
The shutout was the Engineers’ third of the season. It was also a far cry from their first meeting with the Knights when they gave up too many big plays.
“Our defense played really well today,” McKenna said. “I think it’s the result that comes when you play a team the second time and you have pretty good knowledge from game planning against them before. It was unique because we played them so early season and then we came back to play them so late. I was confident in our coaching staff in preparation for this game.”
With things back on track, their seven-game winning streak in tact, and a first round win, confidence couldn’t be higher for Gales and company heading into a quarterfinal game against second-seeded Tottenville next weekend.
“Our potential is limitless. Some people say the sky is the limit, but we like to think past that,” Gales said. “There’s no ceiling for us.”
“Every game that you have, there is a maturing process that goes on,” added McKenna. ‘The biggest thing has been finding our identity as a team and then just going with it. I feel like we’re there.”