Risk taking isn’t for everyone, but E-Hall had lost in three consecutive PSAL title games by a combined 12 points, so maybe the team felt enough was enough.
On the play, E-Hall went back to the run game and was stopped dead in their tracks by a relentless defensive pursuit from the front line of the Curtis High School Warriors, who defeated E-Hall 24-21 in the 2016 Title game.
Curtis maintained a 36-35 lead, and they carried it all the way to the championship.
Even with two more opportunities late, the Brooklyn-based Dutchmen couldn’t power through the Warriors, as the did with more success in the second half, starting with a 55-yard touchdown run from Wisconsin-signee Aron Cruickshank off a read option on the first play of the third quarter.
After an earlier three-and-out, which resulted in E-Hall punting to Curtis with just over two minutes remaining, E-Hall was given their final shot to win their first title since 2012, but with only 45 seconds remaining.
Back on their own 20 after a touchback following a muffed punt return, E-Hall, with limited time and space, aimed for the one long dynamic play to rewrite the history books and overtake Curtis, who had the edge over E-Hall for nearly the entire game, albeit slightly.
But three defensive stops later awarded Curtis their second consecutive PSAL title, and Erasmus’ fourth straight loss in the battle in the Bronx.
Although each loss stung, this one may have hurt the most for seniors like Cruickshank.
“We started off slow and we just came up short at the end,” he said. “It’s not like this never happened before it’s just, I don’t know, man.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Cruickshank added. “We did what we had to do. I mean they just fought harder than us. I guess I can say they wanted it more than us to be honest.”
Regardless of who wanted it more, there’s no questioning that both teams went after it for the game’s entirety.
After multiple punts to start, the Warriors struck first. Quarterback Quincy Barnes had the first of multiple long TD passes in the game, finding receiver Daniel Manneh to put Curtis up 7-0 with 6:26 left in the first.
The Dutchmen answered after quarterback Keion Jones connected with Temple commit Sean Ryan for 44 yards, setting up a two-yard TD rush for Cruickshank, and a made extra point tied the game with 7:59 left before halftime.
Curtis quickly responded as Barnes hit Amad Anderson for 53 yards before Ty Son Lawton ran in a TD for 12 yards on the very next play. A two-point conversion put Curtis up 15-7 with 6:07 left in the second before collecting seven more points with 2:30 to go until halftime, after Barnes powered it in from half a distance to the goal.
Christian Izien injected the Dutchmen with life when, after muffing the following kick return at the 22, managed to scoop the loose ball at his own 19, run around the defense, and took it 70 yards before being brought down on Curtis’ 11-yard line with 2:11 left.
E-Hall subsequently scored after a running TD with Logan, and a made two-pointer made the deficit 22-15, with Curtis ahead at the half.
Cruickshank’s option run set the tone for the third, tying the game at 22, but was again answered by the Warriors, who, on fourth and goal, received seven points thanks to an Isaiah Richards run and an extra point with 5:23 left in the third.
Logan scored again for E-Hall, tying the game at 29 with 3:15 to go after 21 and 24-yard runs on back-to-back plays. Lawton dashed one in for a 50-yard touchdown with 46 seconds ago, giving Curtis the 36-29 lead before the end of the third, all of which came prior to the game-deciding play, and the decision, which ultimately altered the result.
“It’s gonna hurt, but I know that I gave it 110 percent on this field so that’s all I could say,” Cruickshank added while Curtis celebrated their second consecutive championship on the Yankee Stadium field.