Justin Mitchell can sometimes get his name lost on a Curtis team full of high profile athletes. Yet the junior wide receiver was in full sync with quarterback Quincy Barnes to put his name on the spotlight for a critical play.
Mitchell leaped to haul in a 32-yard touchdown on an important fourth down conversion with 49.3 left in regulation to help Curtis return to the PSAL city conference title game with a thrilling 42-35 semifinal win over Abraham Lincoln in St. George.
“I am speechless man to be honest. I didn’t want my seniors going home without a chip and without going to Yankee Stadium so I just did what I could do,” Mitchell said.
Curtis (10-1) will defend the city championship in a rematch against Erasmus Hall on December 5 at 5 p.m. from Yankee Stadium. The No. 1 seed Dutchmen earned a 34-6 win over Midwood at Sid Luckman Field also on Saturday.
“I’m trying to tell everybody. Justin Mitchell is a dude. He’s all-city man,” Barnes proclaimed of his teammate. “We work on that all the time. We say if the guy is in front of you, I’m throwing to the back shoulder. I threw it and I gave him a chance. He’s always going to make plays and he’s a dude.”
The major playmakers for No. 2 seed Curtis stepped to the forefront. Quincy Barnes (7 of 11, 153 yards, 3 TD’s), Amad Anderson (2 touchdowns) and Ty Son Lawton (31 rushes, 152 yards) each made vital contributions.
Points were not a premium with two high-flying offenses finding different ways to get into the end zone. Barnes scrambled from pressure and located Mitchell for a 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Warriors a 21-14 lead with 30 seconds left in the first half.
Lincoln needed only four plays to start the second half to find pay dirt when Omar Robinson (3 touchdown runs) scored from 1-yard out to tie the game.
Tylik Bethea (9 of 14, 293 yards, 3 TD’s) played an outstanding game as the junior quarterback located a wide-open Dean Sowell for a 60-yard touchdown reception to give Lincoln a 28-21 lead with 8:33 left in the third quarter.
With the game tied at 28, the Purdue commit Anderson wowed the crowd by outstretching over two defenders to catch a 50-yard reception that got the Warriors within range of the end zone. Anderson ended the drive with an 8-yard scoring run with 4:56 left in regulation for a 35-28 advantage.
But Lincoln (9-2) only needed 27 seconds to respond. Javari Matthews made a 61--yard reception to put the ball at the 2-yard line and Jonathan Cato scored the game-tying 2-yard touchdown run to knot the game at 35-all.
The Warriors continued a habit of making important fourth down conversions as Barnes rushed for 18 yards to keep the go-ahead scoring drive alive. On fourth-and-6, Mitchell turned around in the end zone and fended off a defender to make the go-ahead score for Curtis.
Curtis sealed the game by recovering the ensuing kickoff and eliminate Lincoln from the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Lincoln had traded blow for blow but the visitors lost an opportunity to grab a lead along with momentum midway in the fourth quarter by dropping two important passes within the Curtis 5-yard line.
“The kids played hard. We was one play away. It’s tough. We had double coverage a couple of times in the game on #1 [Anderson] and he always came up with it,” Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor said. “We just came up short but the kids played hard.”
Curtis has been rolling since losing to the Dutchmen back in the opening week of the regular season in Brooklyn. Barnes believes his team has developed a strong mentality over the season for the opportunity to play 48 more minutes in the Bronx.
The Warriors will try to become the first team in the city to repeat as champions after achieving that feat back in 1998 and 1999.
“This team fights. We’re different. We didn’t go undefeated this year, Barnes said. “We had to switch things around and fill in some pieces but I’m extremely blessed because this team comes out to fight.”