By Joseph Staszewski
The play Springfield Gardens used to initially grab the lead eventually earned it much, much more.
The Eagles scored just before halftime down the left side on a deep pass from Allassaine Coulibaly to Christopher Clarke. They went back to the same play, just to the other side of the field, to win the game late and earn a playoff berth, with one game remaining in the regular football season.
“It worked,” said Springfield Gardens coach Charles Yarborough with a smile. “We wanted to take a shot.”
After Beach Channel rallied to tie the score, Coulibaly’s 51-yard strike to an open Clarke down the right side on the next play, gave Springfield Gardens the lead for good with just under a minute remaining. The Eagles held on for a thrilling 20-16 victory over host Beach Channel in PSAL Bowl conference football last Saturday.
“We knew that coming into this game if we win, we are in the playoffs,” Clarke said. “That was the goal, to be in the playoffs. I just came out and realized I had to make a play.”
For Springfield Gardens (5-4), responding with big plays was a trend all afternoon. Beach Channel (4-5) tied the score at 6-6 when quarterback Joshua Timmer completed a 6-yard touchdown run by diving for the pylon. The game wasn’t knotted for long, though, as a game-changing sequence ensued.
On kickoff, Justin Mercure bounced off a pile of potential tacklers at midfield, broke out to the left and returned the ball 60 yards for a score. Coulibaly caught the 2-point conversion pass from Corwyn Ellis and Springfield Gardens led 14-6 with 1:40 to play in the third quarter.
“It felt amazing and unreal at the same time,” Mercure said.
The Eagles’ good fortune continued. Ellis recovered the onside kick. While Beach Channel managed to end the drive with a goal-line stop on fourth down at the 1-yard line, the 12-play drive drained valuable time off the clock.
Beach Channel responded with an 11-play, 99-yard drive to tie the score at 14-14 with 1:08 to go in the game. Timmer capped it with a 16-yard scoring run and a 2-point conversion pass to Christopher Gallagher. It only took one play again for Springfield Gardens to respond and earn itself a much-desired spot in the postseason.
“It’s been open all season,” Yarborough said of the game-winning play. “We know if it is through correctly, Chris is going to catch it.”