By Dylan Butler
Wayne Harris didn’t care that his final five rushes of the game were for a total of -8 yards. All that mattered for the August Martin junior was that the Falcons were on the winning side of the final score. And that he did it for his dad.
Dedicating the game to his late father, who worked for Marsh & McLennan on the 93rd floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower and is still missing following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Harris rushed for a 78-yard touchdown to open the scoring for seventh-seeded Martin in an 18-0 win over No. 10 Midwood at Ralph Jones Memorial Field in a first-round PSAL playoff game Saturday.
“It’s been hard, but I have a lot of friends on the football team,” said Harris, who also recovered a fumble. “And they’ve helped me keep my mind off things.”
August Martin (6-3) advances to the quarterfinals to play at third-seeded Canarsie, who defeated No. 14 Bayside 18-15 in the first round, Saturday at noon. The Falcons dropped a 32-6 season-opening decision to the Chiefs and lost two of its next three before reeling off five straight wins.
“Like I said early in the season, we’re a young team and we’re just maturing right now,” said August Martin head coach Mike Greene. “The defense today was awesome. They’re growing and slowly, but steadily they’re getting focused together.”
Midwood (7-1), making its first playoff appearance in four years, had a great chance to jump ahead early as the Hornets started their first drive from the Falcons 6. Martin senior Anthony Pittman recovered the ball three yards into the end zone following a bad snap on a punt from the Falcons 17 and managed to rumble out avoiding the safety.
But two plays later Midwood senior quarterback Jon Hernandez rolled to his left and fired in the end zone only to get picked off by Moustapha Johnson in the end zone. It would be an ominous sign of things to come for Midwood head coach Marshall Tames.
“Turnovers killed us all day,” said Tames, after his Hornets turned the ball over five times. “We didn’t do it all year. [Hernandez] threw two or three interceptions all year and today he threw four.”
Harris set the pace early for Martin as on his first rush of the game he found a seam down the Falcons sideline and left the Midwood defense behind him, rushing 78-yards for a touchdown to give the Falcons a 6-0 lead with 7:37 left in the first quarter.
Even though Martin’s lead was just six points, the Hornets never threatened with the Falcons suffocating and hard-hitting defense, led by Pittman, Trevor Shamble and Shane Smith in the secondary, holding the Midwood offense at bay.
Midwood senior Andrew Rose had a game-high 73 yards on 16 carries, but the Hornets never got inside the Falcons 30-yard line the rest of the game.
“We have to play hard on defense, we knew this is a playoff game,” said Smith, who had a pair of interceptions to increase his league-leading total to eight and had four receptions for 88 yards. “Our job is to get them into a passing situation and once we get them to pass, I just focus on the ball.”
Shamble increased Martin’s lead to 12-0 with 7:48 left in the third quarter on a 13-yard run, breaking several tackles along the way.
“At first I thought I was going to get the blocks, but I just put my shoulders down and kept pumping,” Shamble said.
August Martin junior safety Devon Tyson capped the scoring with 4:00 left in the fourth quarter as he picked off Hernandez at the Hornets 28 and scored easily to put the Falcons ahead 18-0.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.