- Last Updated: 5:15 AM, November 27, 2011
- Posted: 1:23 AM, November 27, 2011
There weren’t obvious signs of dejection or players going over to see if Ashton McKenzie was OK when he limped off the field early in the first quarter with a left high ankle sprain. DeWitt Clinton went about its business like the star junior was still on the field, punting and kicking off, playing middle linebacker, running and blocking out of the backfield.
Ryan Camilo, the Governors’ quarterback, could feel it, though. Like the air slowly coming out of Clinton’s bubble.
“It kind of hit us as a team,” he said. “It brought us down mentally. We all were like, ‘Ashton’s down, how are we gonna do this?’”
Without McKenzie, who entered play with 64 tackles, 964 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, No. 7 Clinton’s hopes of reaching its first city championship game since 1989 was shattered. Top-seeded Lincoln raced out to a three-touchdown lead and cruised to a 30-14 victory in Coney Island on Saturday afternoon in the PSAL City Championship division semifinals.
“He’s that dude,” Clinton coach Howard Langley said. “He’s our best player. He does everything.”
McKenzie’s absence was felt on both sides of the ball. Behind its mammoth offensive line, Lincoln ran all over Clinton, running back Kareem Folkes and quarterback Jessel Jones combining for 262 yards, 155 from Folkes, and three touchdowns.
Offensively, it hampered the Governors’ potent triple option attack. With no true fullback to worry about, Lincoln zeroed in on the usually elusive Camilo, sacking him seven times and limiting him to just 28 rushing yards, a season low. McKenzie's backup, Haleem Livingston, did have a 49-yard touchdown run, but was stuffed on several short-yardage chances.
“When you don’t have Ashton, it takes away a threat,” Langley said. “[Camilo] was a sitting duck back there.”
Langley was in no way taking anything away from Lincoln’s victory. The Railsplitters (12-0), he said, were bigger, stronger and dominated up front. Clinton came out flat. McKenzie’s absence changed the game to the extent where Clinton could’ve been more competitive, the coach said.
Trailing 22-0 at halftime, Clinton fought back. It got within 30-14 on a 43-yard touchdown run by Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and got the ball back at the Lincoln 49-yard line after Agyapong’s acrobatic interception. But after Camilo missed an open Marquis Burrell that could’ve gone for a touchdown, the drive stalled as he was sacked on fourth down.
The loss ends a memorable season for Clinton (8-4), which reached the city semifinals for the first time in Langley’s eight seasons. It turned around a mediocre regular season by knocking off bitter borough rival John F. Kennedy in Week 7 and upset defending champion Fort Hamilton, the fourth seed, in the quarterfinals last weekend.
“I’m very proud of these guys,” Langley said. “They brought Clinton to another level.”Follow @NYPostsports