By Anthony Bosco
The August Martin Falcons capitalized on two first-half Bayside turnovers to score two touchdowns en route to a 15-6 win Sunday afternoon in the regular season finale for both teams.
The victory shored up Martin’s postseason hopes, catapulting the team into the No. 7 seed in the citywide playoffs. Bayside also made the playoffs, backing in as the No. 14 seed.
But the win was hardly conclusive, as Martin (5-3), controlled the ball but never mounted a sustained scoring drive against a stingy Commodores defense. Bayside (3-5) had one impressive drive, but seemed flat the entire game and never equaled the Falcons’ intensity.
“We did pretty good,” said Martin coach Mike Greene. “We had some errors we have to shore up, but basically overall I think we did pretty good.
“Our two biggest games are usually Bayside and [Campus Magnet],” the coach added. “No matter what each team’s record is, that’s going to be a hard game for us because the kids know one another, they live in the same neighborhoods. Bayside feels the same way about us. We’re always going to have a competitive game.”
Before running an offensive play from scrimmage, the Falcons were in Bayside territory following two Commodore penalties. But the drive stalled at the Bayside 20.
Both teams then went three-and-out and on Martin’s first punt of the game, Bayside returner Andre Lewis tried to coral the bouncing pigskin inside the Commodores’ 30 while surrounded by Falcon cover men. The ball bounced through Lewis’ arms and Devon Tyson pounced on it at the 25, giving Martin the ball back.
Two runs by Trevor Shamble of 10 and 11 yards put the ball on the Bayside 4 and, on the first play of the second quarter, Martin quarterback Jason Boyce scored on a sneak to give the Falcons a 6-0 lead. An attempted two-point conversion failed.
“Turnovers kill ya,” said Bayside coach Joe Capuana. “They didn’t have to drive a long way.”
The Commodores came right back on their next possession. A steady diet of runs by David Coleman, Drew Williams and Zanu Simpson brought the team to Martin’s 25-yard line in just six plays. Coleman then went off-tackle and rumbled 25 yards untouched into the end zone to tie the game.
The two-point conversion failed and the score was knotted a 6-6- midway through the second quarter.
Martin then went three-and-out and the Commodores, seeming to have seized the momentum, started their next drive at their own 20. On third-and-11, Simpson’s pass downfield was picked off by Martin’s Ahmed Rahman at the 30 and returned to the Bayside 19.
The Falcons needed just four plays to retake the lead when Boyce ran it in from four yards out with just 1:38 remaining in the first half. The two-point conversion failed again, keeping the score 12-6.
“Their defense was keying on certain people…me and [Shane Smith],” Shamble said. “They said that if they can block us they can get the job done. But that didn’t happen.”
After Bayside failed to move the ball on its first possession of the second half, Martin took over at its own 49. Anthony Pittman, Shamble and Boyce carried the ball on a short drive which stalled at the Bayside 25. On fourth-and-9, Greene called on Pittman to give Martin a two-score advantage.
The 250-pound senior fullback came through, booting a 42-yard field goal that made the score 15-6 late in the third quarter.
“I felt so calm,” Pittman said of the kick. “I’m more nervous in practice. I just came out here, I didn’t hear nothing. I just waited for the ball to be snapped. I don’t even remember what happened. Everything was just blank. It was just me, the snapper and the holder.”
Bayside got inside the Martin 30 on its next possession, but the Falcons’ defense held firm, forcing the Commodores to turn the ball over on downs.
“The defense made a couple of big plays, a couple of quarterback sacks,” Pittman said. “They stepped up.”
Smith picked off Simpson again late in the fourth inside the Falcons’ 10, but Pittman fumbled the ball back to Bayside’s C.J. Okogeri moments later, setting up the Commodores’ final drive, which started at the Martin 26. The Falcons were equal to the task again, as Bayside’s hopes were dashed when Keith Gidding dragged down Simpson at midfield on 4th-and-10.
“We got to give them credit,” Capuana said. “They played a good game and we have to congratulate them.”
Both teams now move on to the playoffs, with Martin hosting Midwood and Bayside traveling to Brooklyn to take on Canarsie. The games will be played Saturday.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.