It didn’t take long for adversity to hit the Lincoln Railsplitters as quarterback Javon “Spanky” Moore twisted his ankle on the very first play of the game. He tried to fight through the injury, and for a while he was able to as Lincoln jumped out to a 20-0 lead, but he started to slow down in the second quarter and Lincoln’s momentum disappeared.
Tottenville suddenly was back in the game as they scored 27 unanswered points, including a fumble returned 65 yards for a touchdown that made it 20-14 with 25 seconds left in the first half. Spanky was reeling, he’d thrown two interceptions and running back Antoine Holloman was forced to take many more snaps then the Railsplitters are used to.
Just when it looked like Lincoln’s perfect season might be in jeopardy, Spanky stepped up and delivered a beautiful pass to a wide open Malik Andrews for a 61-yard touchdown with 6:49 left in the game. It wasn’t enough for the lead, but it got Lincoln its momentum back as the Railsplitters forced a safety shortly after en route to a 28-27 victory at Yankee Stadium to win the Public School Athletic League’s city title on a cold Tuesday night.
“I sprained my ankle pretty bad and then I started cramping up on my right leg toward the second half, but I knew my team needed me and I knew I had to make some plays,” Spanky said after the game, before he left for the hospital. “I knew I couldn’t do everything hurt, but I was going to try my best.”
The 61-yard pass to Andrews didn’t give Lincoln the lead because Holloman missed the two-point conversion. The Railsplitters did manage to take the lead two minutes later though when they forced Tottenville to punt from inside their own 20-yard-line. On that play, the Pirates got a bad snap that when over the kicker’s head and he was forced to kick it back past the end zone to avoid setting Lincoln up for an easy touchdown, but it counted as a safety and gave Lincoln the lead.
It was the right football play to make, but with not much time left in the game it put the Pirates in a tough spot. They had already used their final timeout of the game on the two-point conversion attempt following Andrews’ touchdown catch when Lincoln came out in an unbalanced formation. They desperately needed that timeout too as they got to the 18-yard line on the final drive before time ran out and that safety was the difference in the game.
“I told my guys we dominated them for 22 minutes of the first half, but there’s 24 in it,” Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor said. “I said to them at halftime we just have to play 24 now and we’ll be alright. We played to the 24th minute and the last second.”
The win gives the Railsplitters a perfect 13-0 season. It was a year without much adversity for O’Connor’s group that seemed locked in all year long. There wasn’t a lot of drama or serious injuries — just a deep team with so many options on both offense and defense that it easily won most games and outscored opponents 474-125 throughout the course of the year.
Part of their motivation this year was the fact that many of the players on the Railsplitters felt cheated last season. They thought they were the best team in the city, but were defeated by Tottenville in the PSAL semifinals. O’Connor likes to say, ‘the past is the past’ but many players on this team, especially the seniors, they hadn’t forgotten and felt redemption in not only beating Tottenville twice this year, but beating them when it really counted.
“It’s amazing. It tops off the cherry on the Sundae,” said Thomas Holley, who becomes the first All-American to ever win the PSAL title. “I just won a city championship with my brothers and that’s the best feeling ever.”
Holloman, Leroy Hancle and Carlos Stewart also had touchdowns for Lincoln. Andrew Russo, Fishetti, James Munson and Joshua Rainey had the touchdowns for Tottenville.
** After the game Holley confirmed reports that he has narrowed his college choices down to Penn State and Florida. He said that he recently had a home visit with Penn and was leaving to go to a home visit with Florida late Tuesday night. He said that he hopes to have a decision, “hopefully by the end of this week, but if not then early next week.”