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Opposites attract: PR, Boys set for semis showdown

When Port Richmond and Boys & Girls meet Saturday afternoon in Staten Island, it will be two teams from opposite sides of the spectrum.

The top-seeded Red Raiders have reached this point of the postseason the last three years and were considered a pre-season favorite. The No. 10 Kangaroos, who won their first playoff games as a Level 5 team the last two weeks, weren’t expected to make the playoffs in September by some, let alone get this far. They are still in search of respect while their adversary is looking to win the school’s first city championship in this current postseason format.

Led by quarterback Jeremy Ramos, PR likes to throw the ball all over the field, relying on speed and deception. Boys (8-3) bludgeons the opposition by relentlessly running the ball out of its Delaware Wing-T formation.

The only similarity between the two is desperation. Boys has prepared for this game since moving up to a Level 5 three years ago. Its 33 seniors lost 12 of 18 games the previous two seasons before finally clicking this fall. Port Richmond won plenty of games the last three years, but never could get over the hump. Twenty of the Red Raiders could be playing their final game Saturday, too.

“They’re the undefeated team,” Boys senior running back Kristopher Moton said.

The result will ultimately come down to execution, whether the Kangaroos can be the first defense to slow down the high-powered Red Raiders (11-0), an offense that scored 417 points and went over 30 nine times.

It starts with Ramos, a dual threat, under center. There is no better weapon in the city out of the backfield than Torian Phillips, an elite senior that has found pay dirt 29 times this year. Wide receiver Zamel Johnson (30 receptions, 674 yards, 9 TDs) can make the best of defensive backs look silly – case in point, he torched Curtis’s James Pon Pon in the regular-season finale. And tight end Sean Johnson is the best at his position.

“They’re scary,” Boys coach Barry O’Connor said. “They’re almost too good to be true.”

O’Connor said he needs his secondary, particularly cornerbacks Carl Williams and Shawn Billups and safety David Nooks, to hold firm. But he isn’t sure what to expect. There are few offenses in the PSAL that throw the ball around quite so much, the others being Bayside, New Dorp and New Utrecht. Boys didn’t face any of them.

Port Richmond’s defense, of course, will be tested, too. They have faced similar attacks, but nobody with as many backs that can break long runs at any moment. Senior Khalif Osson and Moton consistently punish opposing defenses while sophomore Wilbert Lee is the Kangaroos’ most dynamic force, a speedy yet powerful underclassmen that Boys uses out of the backfield and at receiver. Plus, leading rusher Kadeem Cousar, who sprained his ankle in the opening-round win over No. 7 Campus Magnet, may return.

“We’re going to need everybody to play well,” O’Connor said. “Everybody has to do their part.

The pressure, Moton said, lies on Port Richmond’s shoulders. The school is yearning for that first city championship, and after falling short each of the last few years, and with this crop of seniors enjoying such prolific campaigns, anything less than hoisting a crown at season’s end would be a disappointment. The Red Raiders have been waiting a full year just to get back to this point.

“We,” coach Lou Vesce said, “have to take it a step further.”

While the Kangaroos have yet to get this far, that doesn’t lessen the urgency. O’Connor has coached on the high school level for 24 years altogether, and as the head coach at the Bedford-Stuyvesant school for 11 seasons, without such a chance, so he knows this is a rare opportunity. While they may be a big underdog, that was also the case against Sheepshead Bay in the quarterfinals.

“Any time our team takes the field we got a chance,” O’Connor said. “We like the idea about being underdogs. We feel its us against the world.”

“We look at them as being the New England Patriots and we’re the New York Giants,” added Moton, referencing Super Bowl XLII, and Boys’ two road playoff upsets. “We’re not going to go in there to lay down for anybody.”

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