Michael Brooks stood in the backfield thinking that he had to make something happen on the upcoming kick return. His team, the No. 5 Fort Hamilton Tigers, had led all game long only to give up the lead 26-22 with just four minutes to play and now he was thinking about how he was going to score.
Brooks caught the ball at the 34-yard line. He briefly bobbled it, but as he got control over the ball he saw an opening, he went for it, eventually ran the ball 66 yards downfield and scored, again. It was his second kick returned for a touchdown, both in the fourth quarter, as he nearly single-handedly kept No. 9 Grand Street Campus from getting a last minute upset as the Tigers won 30-26 in Bay Ridge on Saturday.
“I was scared,” Fort Hamilton’s quarterback Sharif Legree admitted after the game. “If it wasn’t for Michael Brooks…I couldn’t believe it. I had to close my eyes. I was scared, they had just taken the lead and it was a close game. I was ready to go back out on the field to fight for that last drive, but then Michael Brooks took care of it. Two kick return touchdowns like that, he really stepped up.”
Those two kickoff returns capped off an exciting fourth quarter of that game. Fort Hamilton had entered the quarter with a 14-6 lead, but that before five touchdowns between the two teams.
Grand Street’s sophomore Rahmel Ashby got everything started when he ran in a 21-yard touchdown with 8:24 left in the game to make it 14-12 Fort Hamilton. Brooks followed that score up with his first kickoff return touchdown, a 75-yarder to make it 22-12. Grand Street’s quarterback Justin White then found Lynell Robinson for a 65-yard touchdown catch to make it 22-20 and then it took the lead when Ashby scored on a four-yard run.
It was a pretty incredible ending to the game, but even after Brooks’ second return touchdown gave Fort Hamilton the lead, Grand Street still had one last drive in it. It was nearly successful too, but Kimani Talbot dropped a pass with just 40 seconds left in the game that looked like it could have been a touchdown had he held on. Even if he did catch that pass and run it into the end zone though, Brooks would have had one last chance to return a kick.
In addition to two touchdowns and 155 yards returning, Brooks also had 24 yards rushing. Legree had 64 yards passing including two touchdowns. Isaiah Washington had 29 yards rushing and Juan Tejada had a receiving touchdown. Tyquell Brown had an interception. Fort Hamilton also had seven sacks on the day including three from sophomore Jermaine Garner and two each from Berel Lakovitsky and Kevin Ferguson.
Ashby was the star for Grand Street, who also got a gutsy performance out of quarterback White as he got sacked seven times and still managed to throw two touchdowns and keep his team in the game. Tyquwan Morales also had an interception which was only the second of the year off Legree.
This victory came following a tough 48-0 loss to Erasmus Hall. The win keeps Fort Hamilton from being considered one of the truly elite teams in Brooklyn, but head coach Danny Perez thinks that a win like that can help go a long way toward helping his kids improve.
“Last week’s loss was pretty harsh,” Perez admitted. “It was a tough week because every single day you were thinking about that. That’s good sometimes though. You don’t want to dwell on it too much because you worry that guys might focus on it too much, but they were able to take something from it, and put it behind them in time to face a new opponent.”
Hopefully that’s true, that the tough loss to E-Hall really helped them to improve because Fort Hamilton has an incredibly tough schedule over the next three weeks with games against Lincoln and Tottenville coming up.
Fort Hamilton is now 5-1 on the season, a huge improvement from last season when it went 1-7.