Top-seeded Abraham Lincoln High School hangs on to defeat Thomas Jefferson, 30-28, in the PSAL Championship Division quarterfinals.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Lincoln was taking care of business as usual in the first quarter. Seniors Kareem Folkes and Denzel Duchenne carried the offense into the red zone, and Jessel Jones took back-to-back quarterback keepers into the end zone for the 16-0 lead. Lincoln coach Shawn O'Connor explained he wanted Jones to hold onto the ball in case there was “an exchange problem.”
Toward the end of the second quarter, a 20-yard punt by an already backed-up Lincoln gave Jefferson ideal field position on the Railsplitters' 38-yard line. Neville Alexander rushed 14 yards, and on the ensuing play, Al Amin Stewart Jr. connected with senior Dajon Dixon, bringing the Orange Wave within 10.
Less than a minute later, Lincoln stormed back 52 yards, and Jones' last touchdown of the game pushed the lead to 24-6 heading into halftime.
In the third, senior Kharif Pryor picked Jones and ran back 32 yards for another Jefferson touchdown. The Orange Wave recovered the ensuing kickoff to score again.
Inches from the end zone, Stewart was initially halted by a wave of Lincoln defenders, until the elusive quarterback broke free, twisted left and collapsed just past the goal line. Jefferson only trailed, 24-20, entering the final quarter.
The Railsplitters' last touchdown came with about four minutes remaining. This time it was Folkes who rushed 6 yards.
WANING MOMENTS: Stewart (9-of-18, INT, 182 yards) hauled a 17-yard pass into the arms of Alexander with 1:42 to play to bring the Orange Wave within 2 points.
No. 1 Lincoln (11-0) was expecting an onside kick, but No.14 Jefferson (4-7) accidentally booted the ball out of bounds. The Railsplitters took over on their 35-yard line and ran out the clock to preserve the win.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: More than a week ago, Jefferson wide receiver Kendall Thomas said he was looking forward to facing Lincoln -- a team the Orange Wave had yet to face, and one the confident senior believed they could beat.
Entering this match-up, Lincoln coach Shawn O'Connor hoped his team, which had been averaging about 40 points per game, would be tested by fiery Jefferson. However, after the near victory, he admitted he doesn't want the Railsplitters to be tested quite like that again.
“We kind of had easy games all the time, so it’s good that we got tested and put under pressure,” O’Connor said. “The kids still responded. [The] scoreboard don’t matter. We got the victory.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME: With three touchdowns, this honor would go to Jones (76 rushing yards) if it weren't for a pair of second-half picks. As O’Connor said, he ran like Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, and unfortunately, he threw like him too.
However, Folkes, who rushed for 188 yards and scored Lincoln's final touchdown, once again was a force that propelled the Railsplitters to victory.
“It’s a team, so not only am I going to score, everybody’s got to contribute,” Folkes said after the game. “Jessel picked up the slack. I brought him down as far as I could, and then he just took over.”
UP NEXT: With No. 7 seed Clinton knocking out reigning city champion Fort Hamilton, Lincoln will face new blood in the playoffs.
O'Connor said he wasn’t worried about Fort Hamilton winning or losing, stating, “We got that monkey off our back a couple of weeks ago.”
However, Jones admitted he's glad the finals rematch storyline is now dead.
“It’s going to be fun playing against Clinton,” the Lincoln quarterback said. “I know they’re a hard-nose football team from the Bronx. They like to power run the ball, so it’s gong to be our defense against their good running back and quarterback.”