By Mike Smollins
August Martin has now seen two bowl championships slip through its fingers in the past three years.
The second-seeded Falcons lost to No. 1 James Madison 22-20 Sunday at Lincoln HS in Brooklyn in the Public Schools Athletic League Bowl football final.
Banged-up August Martin (6-4) squandered a few opportunities, but made a late comeback in the second half. After trailing 22-8, the Falcons clawed back and pulled within 22-20 with just 48 seconds remaining in regulation. Their onside kick would then be recovered by the Knights, which sealed the defeat.
“Not too many kids were in the circumstances we were in,” Coach Marcus Louison said. “We had a lot of injuries to overcome.”
One of the major ones was to starting quarterback Ricky Dunbar, who they lost to a knee injury in their semifinal win over Grady. Backup quarterback Nick Jean Louis filled in admirably, making his first start at the position.
“Considering everything, I think he did what he needed to do,” Louison said. “We just weren’t sharp enough as a whole, we had a few mishaps and a couple of penalties here and there. He wasn’t the reason we didn’t win the football game. I’m disappointed in not taking advantage of opportunities.”
The Falcons squandered an opportunity early in the game. After they recovered Knights (8-2) running back A.J. Anifowoshe’s fumble, August Martin fumbled the ball just two plays later. The fumble led to James Madison’s first touchdown, a 17-yard strike from Barry Dagbolen to Adeyinka Anifoweshe.
August Martin drew even when Jean Louis scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to tie the game before the extra point gave the Queens school its only lead with 45.9 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“I came in a bit nervous,” Jean Louis said. “My team had my back so I calmed down and relaxed and the game went according to plan until we messed up. I was prepared for anytime our quarterback got injured. We had our eyes set on this game since the beginning of the season, but unfortunately it didn’t go how we dreamed it would. We made it and we’re proud of that.”
August Martin’s lead would last only 13 seconds as Dellon Peters returned the ensuing kickoff for a 78-yard touchdown to put James Madison back ahead.
Martin wasn’t able to take advantages of opportunities in the second half as it recovered a fumble on the Madison 15-yard line, but was unable to punch it in. On the Falcons’ following drive, Jean Louis fumbled after a sack, leading to another Madison touchdown.
Senior running back Clinton Westmoreland gave August Martin a chance in the fourth quarter. He scored his first of two touchdowns with 2:08 remaining on a 3-yard run. His second score, a 36-yard run, got the Falcons with 22-20, but the comeback fell short.
“This was a good game,” Westmoreland said. “It just didn’t end like we wanted it to, but we’re gonna remember this game. My team has heart and we fought to the end.”
While it was tough for August Martin to swallow two Bowl championship losses in the last three years, the team likes the direction it is going in and knows that had they limited some of its mistakes, perhaps they would have held the trophy Sunday.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Louison said. “They stuck it out and didn’t give up throughout the whole game.”