The ball wasn’t round and the weather was too cold. But the final score of this football contest might have been the result of a recent Yankee game with A.J. Burnett on the mound.
Fort Hamilton High School defeated Lincoln High School, 8-6, last night at Yankee Stadium to claim a Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) City Championship. It was the second-ever football game at the current ballpark.
Last week, Lincoln defensive tackle Wayne Williams said the key to shutting down the Tigers would be containing Brandon Reddish, the 6-foot-tall wide receiver and safety who posted 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Railsplitters when Fort Hamilton ended their playoff run last year. History repeated itself with a title on the line.
Down, 6-0, with three minutes and 12 seconds left in the third quarter, Marvin Centeno hauled a 26-yard pass into Reddish’s arms to tie the score.
“If we want that big play we had to go Reddish,” Fort Hamilton coach Danny Perez said after the game. “I knew once the ball was in the air, I knew he was going to come down with it.”
Centeno connected again for the 2-point conversion, finding an open Dylan Campili to take the, 8-6, lead. On Monday, the Tigers practiced the play four times, and each time Campili had dropped the pass. The senior held on when it counted.
“When that play came on in the game and coach called it, everything ran through my head,” Campili said. “The only thing I could think of was, ‘I got to get this ball. I want this ring.’ So I came down with it, and I got up, and it was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had.”
Lincoln (12-1) had scored its touchdown in the waning moments of the first half. On third-and-inches with two seconds remaining, junior running back Kareem Folkes powered into the end zone to cap off a 12-minute drive.
Fort Hamilton’s (13-0) goal of the season was to finish. Much like the Yankees before their 2009 championship, the Tigers entered the title game after a recent string of strong regular-season showings and playoff heartbreaks. Fort Hamilton went undefeated the last three regular seasons, but lost in the title game two years ago and by 1 point in the semifinals last year.
“I just feel so glad for the kids,” Perez said. “They came to the championship as sophomores and they lost, and now they’re able to come on the big stage at Yankee Stadium and finish the job.”
The first football game at the House That George Built was Notre Dame’s 27-3 victory over Army on Nov. 20.
The Yankees had allotted 10,000 tickets for this event. By the time the game was in progress, most of the lower bowl had filled up. Brian Smith, the organization’s senior vice president of corporate and community relations, said at a Dec. 1 press conference that the Yankees hope to continue hosting the city championship.
“The New York Yankees are proud supporters of the PSAL,” Smith said. “We’re looking for this to be one of the premier events at Yankee Stadium, and hopefully something we can continue to do on a year and year out basis.”
With the Yankees reaching out to host high school and college football games, the Bronx can expect a surge in Highbridge even after October.