By Jerry Del Priore
After New Utrecht scored to take a 24-20 lead with .37 seconds remaining in the game, senior quarterback Sameer Akesson gathered himself, and refused to quit. He quickly drove the Chiefs down field, putting them within striking distance, inside their red zone.
Then, on the next play, as he rolled out to his right, the gusty signal caller found sophomore receiver Joshua Adelson in the back of the end zone with zero time left on the clock, completing Canarsie’s storybook comeback, 26-24, Sunday at Lafayette High School Field.
“I’m so proud of them, because they were ready to quit,” head coach Kyle Allen said. “All we had to do is tell them, ‘You can still win.’ And they were like, “Oh, we still have a chance?’ As long as they know they have a chance, they keep fighting. And I love that about them. These kids fought to the end.”
The deck was stacked against the Chiefs (2-2), even before the game started. Canarsie’s bus didn’t show up due to a clerical error, Allen said. So, parents banded together and drove the players to Lafayette.
Though there was barely any time to warm up, it didn’t seem to bother the Chiefs, as they scored on the second play of the tilt from scrimmage. Senior running back Johnny Watson hit pay dirt on a 19-yard run, followed by his successful two-point conversion rush that gave Canarsie an 8-0 early advantage.
The Utes (1-3) drew closer with a touchdown of their own, making it 8-6 early in the second period.
Not to settle, New Utrecht surged ahead, 12-8, on 31-yard TD scamper by senior running back Brandon Jones with .10 seconds left in the first half.
Jones victimized the Chiefs’ defense again, by ripping off another long run up the middle for a touchdown and 18-8 lead midway through the third quarter.
But Akesson sliced the deficit to 18-14 when he crossed the goal line on a 19-yard run, aided by a solid block by senior Tymel Mabry, late in the third period.
Not giving his legs much of a rest, the five-foot-eight, 157-pound speedster put them ahead, 20-18, on another rushing TD with minutes left in the affair.
But New Utrecht moved the pigskin down the gridiron quickly, using a deep pass play to put the team at Canarsie’s doorstep. Jones followed with a one-yard touchdown plunge to take a four-point lead with .37 seconds to go in the affair.
Feeling dejected, Allen’s short pep talk with his squad and Akesson, who his coach described a gamer, was all they needed to pull off the late-game heroics.
“After they scored, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t feel too good,” Akesson admitted. “I had my head down, but once we got back on offense, coach told me we could still win this game. That’s when I realized that we might as well go out and make something out of this.”
While at a diminutive stature, Allen never doubted his quarterback’s indomitable spirit.
“If I could take his heart out of his chest and put in mine, I do it,” Allen said. “He has more heart than I do. He bought himself time, found an open receiver, kept his poise, and threw a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone with no time on the clock as a first-year starter in his fourth game. Who does that?”
This type of victory, Allen said, was a big step forward for the Chiefs’ football program.
“This speaks volumes. This is a big program win,” the sixth-year coach explained. “We beat a formidable opponent. We beat a well-coached, well-respected program in New Utrecht.”
Akesson completed five of seven passes for 69 yards a touchdown while amassing 123 rushing yards and two TDs on 12 carries. Adelson caught three passes for 57 yards and a score.
Junior Adisa Isaac and senior Eric Anderson led Canarsie’s defense with seven tackles each, with Isaac recording a sack.
The Chiefs host Campus Magnet Sunday at 11:00 a.m.