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The similarities are so startling they are impossible to ignore. The 2006 Fort Hamilton offense and the 2008 Port Richmond unit are almost clones of one another.
When Fort Hamilton won its second consecutive championship, winning all 13 of its games, it put up an astounding 491 points, scoring over 30 eleven times and winning by no less than 20. The Tigers had an attack that had no weakness – in Antonio Walcott, the most productive running back in the city; in Jeffrey Legree, the best quarterback; and in the wide receiver tandem of Keith Stroud and Jaiquan Jarrett perhaps the most dangerous.
Port Richmond, by contrast, compiled 443 points and went over 30 nine times in 12 games, its margin of victory in single digits just twice this season. The spread attack features running back Torian Phillips (30 touchdowns), who scares opposing defenses by just lining up opposite them. Quarterback Jeremy Ramos, although not as pure a pocket passer as Legree, is as lethal with his right arm as his legs. And wide receiver Zamel Johnson and tight end Sean Johnson are one of the best at their respective positions.
“I see the similarities between us and them,” Ramos said. “Both were very explosive.”
Fort Hamilton coach Vinny Laino wasn’t too fond of the comparison because he remembers that group with such fondness. He said he can’t imagine anyone equaling what Walcott or Legree accomplished that season. Yet, he was also quick to point out how good the Red Raiders are, too.
“I really admire what coach Vesce is doing,” he said. “Most of their players are triple threats. … What I do think is a tremendous parallel is these kids are a senior group and they’ve been together two or three years and our 2006 group was the same.”
Like that team, there is no way to attack them. In the semifinals, Boys & Girls tried to take away Phillips. Instead, Ramos ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. Because of a stiff wind, Port Richmond didn’t throw much – their greatest strength – but instead ran for 308 yards.
Take away Zamel Johnson, Sean Johnson beats you. Protect against the pass and Phillips breaks off a 60-yard run. Then there is Ramos, who Laino said, “makes things happen when something is there and makes things happen when nothing is there.”
Two years ago, the two teams met in the PSAL semifinals, a game comfortably won by Fort Hamilton, 41-12. Ramos was just coming back from a severe injury and was rusty. Plus, the Red Raiders current stars were just sophomores. But it was a learning experience. And now here they are, dominating in the same vein.
“I don’t mind saying I want to be like them,” Vesce said. “It’s similar because of the great players and the ability to run and throw.”
Of course, any true comparison won’t be able to be assessed unless Port Richmond wins Sunday.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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