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Fort Hamilton running back AJ Richardson received a late-night visit at his Staten Island home from several Curtis players after his team’s last matchup with the Warriors, a season-ending defeat in the 2007 PSAL quarterfinals.
His so-called friends were there to rub in the lopsided loss.
“I couldn’t say anything,” he said.
Richardson can do all the talking he wants now.
The diminutive, 5-foot-5 senior halfback ran for 99 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ commanding, 38-24 road victory over Curtis Saturday afternoon.
“It was kind of like the championship game for me,” he said. “It was against people I know. I wanted bragging rights.”
He started Fort Hamilton’s afternoon off right, scoring from 18 yards out on the game’s opening possession. On the play, he was caught in the backfield but shed tacklers and used his speed to get to the edge. Richardson also scored on runs of 2 and 3 yards.
“That was a big crazy play,” quarterback Frank Laino, coach Vinny Laino’s son, said. “It definitely gave us a lot of momentum and sparked the whole team.”
“He looked like a little roadrunner out there,” said Curtis defensive back James Pon Pon, one of Richardson’s good friends.
The Tigers didn’t look back, taking a 21-0 lead 8:30 into the first quarter. The lead grew to 31-0 by halftime and 38-0 after Warriors running back Shaquan Coles fumbled on the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter, setting up Richardson’s final visit to the end zone.
“We just jumped right on them and all the breaks went our way,” Vinny Laino said.
Frank Laino threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Reddish and also ran one in from 3 yards out. Curtis quarterback Tynell Brown threw two interceptions in the first half, to Reddish and Samuel Perea.
The Warriors reeled off 24 unanswered points in the second half. Brown scored from a yard out to get Curtis on the board with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter, threw a three-yard score to Kassim Forbes on 4th-and-goal, and connected with Dominique Easley from 13 yards out.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome three turnovers and a sloppy first half.
“We need to move forward,” Curtis coach Peter Gambardella said. “They are a great football team and we didn’t play the way we are capable of playing.”
Despite the three late touchdowns, Vinny Laino was enthused by the play of his defense. He attributed the letdown to playing with a big lead and the absence of several key defenders, such as linemen Kevon Foster and Ivan Roy, do to cramps and minor injuries. It was the one aspect of his team that most worried the longtime coach. But they pitched a first-half shutout and held down the robust Curtis running game.
“We had something to prove,” defensive end Kreshnick Hakanjin said. “Today was a real big step for us.”
Fort Hamilton (2-0) now has wins over established powers Sheepshead Bay and Curtis (1-1). Last year’s runner-up seems well on its way to challenging for another crown.
“It’s a statement, but the season is a race,” Frank Laino. “We can’t stop here. We have to keep getting better and better.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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