Even though he was a freshman and didn’t get a chance to play in the game, Antoine Holloman remembers the first time he stepped on the field at Yankee Stadium during the Public School Athletic League’s championship game. He also remembers how scared he was when, as a sophomore, he finally got to play under those same bright lights.
Now, in his third trip to Yankee Stadium, Holloman is finally ready to leave his mark on the hallowed ground in the Bronx.
“I was involved in one play,” Holloman recalled of his first action at Yankee Stadium in 2011. “I was scared the entire time and the only play I was involved in was called pass interference. I didn’t think that it was a penalty, but I remember being so scared because you are under those lights and, at that point, I thought that the game was going wrong and it was my fault.
“This time being here it feels much better,” he continued. “As a senior, I’m a much bigger part of my team and I know I won’t be scared. Now I just can’t wait until those bright lights come on and everybody is watching me. It’s amazing. My heart is beating so fast right now. I’m so happy to be with my team and to experience this once again.”
After three trips to Yankee Stadium, Lincoln lost there to Fort Hamilton in 2011 and then beat Erasmus Hall in 2012, Holloman knows better than anybody how intimidating the scenery can be. He also says that he feels his team is properly prepared and when Dec. 10 rolls around coach Shawn O’Connor will have everyone ready for the task at hand.
“We’ve been trying to stay in our routine as best as possible with the kids,” O’Connor said. “We’ve been in this situation before so it hasn’t been a problem for us. We’ve been trying to do stuff to keep their minds off it a little bit too. We’re keeping the same routine.”
Part of preparation includes watching endless videotape to the point where O’Connor joked that his wife is ready to kick him out of their home he has been so obsessed. However, he insists that Tottenville has gotten much better since Lincoln won 26-7 during Week 3 and he’s determined to watch as much tape from that game, and the Pirates’ more recent games to be properly prepared.
“They’ve gotten tremendously better since Week 3 and (wide receiver) Devin Martin has been a big part of that,” O’Connor said. “Watching them during the last few weeks, he’s been a big part of that offense. Watching him and (quarterback) Josh Rainey, those two guys have done a tremendous job since the last time we played them. Both their offensive and defensive lines have gotten much better as well.”
One thing Lincoln doesn’t have to worry about is their best player and four-star recruit Thomas Holley, who was in danger of missing this game after he was ejected for throwing a punch in the PSAL semifinals against Flushing. Under league rules, any player ejected also misses the next game, but Lincoln appealed the ruling and it was overturned earlier this week which cleared Holley to play.
“That would have been very detrimental to our team,” Lincoln’s senior wide receiver Malik Andrews said. “Thomas is a great player, everybody knows what he can do. That’s our brother, we wanted him to play. We know what he can do on the field for us.”
Holley explained that he was never too concerned about the possibility of sitting out because, as he said, it was blown out of proportion. Still there were a few days of unease while they awaited the hearing.
“There was that thought in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t play, but I wasn’t too worried about it,” Holley said. “If things happened, they would have happened, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m here now.”
Last week, Erasmus Hall fell victim to Tottenville partially due to the fact that they had so many injuries and ran out of weapons. Lincoln won’t have that problem as it not only has Holley back, but has a full compliment of healthy players giving the Coney Island school a variety of weapons to use against their rivals from Staten Island.
“This team is not just about one person,” Andrews explained. “We have great receivers on this team, Carlos Stewart and everybody knows Luis Rodriguez. We have lots of household names, and we have players at every position. Spanky (Javon Moore) has been a great quarterback and even if he went down, we have other guys that can come in and play quarterback if we needed them to. We have depth on this team and that’s what makes us strong.”
Lincoln is also not lacking for motivation. Tottenville was the same team that knocked them out of the semifinals last year and even though coach O’Connor constantly says that their opponents don’t matter and last year is in the past, some of his players will admit that they are not quite ready to let go.
“We had a tough loss to Tottenville last year that kept us from going to the championship game,” Holley said. “We’re back at it again this year. It’s a big stage and a big game. That game has definitely, as players, given us motivation for this game. We’ve worked hard to get to the chip, but this definitely makes things bigger. We’ve been working real hard and we’re determined to beat them this time around.”
This will be the fourth time the PSAL championship finals will be held at Yankee Stadium. This is Lincoln’s third trip there and Tottenville has been there as well. The game will take place on Dec. 10 at 5:00 p.m. Follow Brooklyn Eagle Sports for coverage leading upto, during and after the game. Follow along on Twitter @BkEagleSports for live updates from the game.