By Jerry Del Priore
The Falcons — inspired by the death of Autumn Coleman (A.K.A Zoey Pereira), a three-year-old Rochdale girl who died in a car fire set by her dad in South Jamaica, Queens, in May due to a dispute with Autumn’s mother, according to reports — used four touchdowns and four two-point conversions to blow past Bryant High School, 32-0, Saturday at Flushing Memorial Field to open up their PSAL Cup Conference schedule.
August Martin head coach Kyle Allen said the scorched remnants of the 2008 Audi sedan found in front of the school at 154th Street and Baisley Boulevard in the spring is etched on the minds of his players.
Therefore, the Falcons (1-0) dedicated the game, and season, to Autumn, and wore tee shirts with her photo on it underneath their uniforms as a remembrance of an innocent, young life taken way too soon.
“This situation has motivated them from May 6th, when we came to school and we saw the remains of the car in front of the school, and the kids had to walk past that car on the way to practice and realize what happened to that baby girl,” Allen recalled. “We have not forgotten that up until this point. And that has been our motivating factor the whole time. It’s just heartbreaking for all us because the baby was so small and so innocent.”
Unfortunately, Allen said that his players learned a cruel life lesson.
“They realized how evil the planet earth can be, and how unforgiven things can be,” he explained. “And how things can turn wrong and go south. That’s part of growing up. Things like that happen in life. It’s just unfair that that baby can no longer play, so we’re going to play for her; she’s going to play through us.”
August Martin refused to disappoint, scoring on the first play of the game from scrimmage, a 60-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Tyler Parham to sophomore receiver Isaiah Allen for a 6-0 advantage. Running back Alex Benjamin, another sophomore, followed with a successful two-point conversion run to make it 8-0 early in the first quarter.
Next, sophomore running back Judeley Francois hit pay dirt to make it 14-0 and then cashed in a two-point conversion run for a 16-0 lead late in the first period.
Benjamin crossed the goal line to swell the Falcons’ advantage to 22-0, and then Parham found Allen for the two-point pass play and a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Benjamin led August Martin with 108 rushing yards on six carries with a TD.
In only his second year of organized tackle football, Benjamin said he has become a student of the sport and is happy to soak up all the knowledge he can from his coaches.
“I played flag football, but it’s different, “Benjamin said. “I got a great coaching staff, so I just listen to what they say. It’s just business. I’m just here to do what I have to do. I’m working hard and getting better every game.”
The 24-point lead over the Owls (0-1) would stay that way for a while until Parham connected with Allen on a nice looking 70-yard TD reception midway through the fourth period. Senior Ricardo Henriquez ran the two-point conversion in to cap the Falcon’s scoring midway through the fourth period.
Though Allen dropped a catchable pass, which was thrown slightly behind him, his dad, coach Allen, felt he should’ve caught it.
But Allen did redeem himself, by making a nifty inside move, enabling himself to come back to the pigskin and pluck it out of the air while eluding the defender as he went in for the score on the bomb.
“As a receiver, it doesn’t matter where the ball is, I’m always told to go get it,” the 15-year-old Allen said. “As my father tells me, ‘even if it’s behind you and you have to spin around and catch it with your neck, it doesn’t matter. Do everything you can to catch the ball.’ And that’s what I did.”
Parham enjoyed a good game, completing four of seven passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, while Allen caught four passes for 147 yards with two scores, though he did fumble once.
August Martin compiled a total of 293 offensive yards.
Parham feels his improved play is due to hard, diligent work and growing up as a player and person.
“I’ve been working on my (throwing) form and the way I play as a leader,” Parham said. “I’ve been able to work on my maturity and keeping my composer in hard situations. Good or bad, I’ve been able to keep the tempo going and keep my teammates encouraged.”
While it wasn’t perfect, Coach Allen didn’t expect anything less than a solid effort from his team, even though it was the Falcons’ first tilt of the season.
“Being that it was (their) first game, you expect little kinks, mistakes, and jitters, and all of that,” he said. “But they played well. Our defense played well; we only gave up one first down in the first half. Offensively, we played well; we moved the ball well. For the most part, they played the way I expected them to play.”
August Martin travels to the Bronx Saturday at 11:00 a.m. to face Alfred E. Smith Campus.
Watch Alex Benjamin Score on 20-yard Rush.