Following a year full of blowout wins and remarkable offensive showcases, it may come as a surprise to some that in the end the Railsplitters won the PSAL title on defense.
But that's exactly what they did Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, in no small part due to the big time contributions of senior running back Kareem Folkes. With the game on the line, Folkes came up with two spectacular ball denials on the game's final possession against senior Erasmus quarterback Wayne Morgan to seal the 20-12 victroy.
The offensive dynamo came into the game battling a high ankle sprain he'd sustained the week prior and played with considerably less explosion.
"He showed the heart of a lion. He did a lot of hard work and he never gave in. He wouldn't let me keep him out long enough," Lincoln coach Shawn O'Connor said. "I wanted to keep him out because I knew we were going to need him the fourth quarter. He kept saying, 'Coach, why am I out?' And I kept telling him that we needed him for four quarters."
It was the adjustment that Folkes had to unexpectedly make early in the year when O'Connor told him that he wanted him to gets some reps on the other side of the ball.
"He made a big sacrifice in the beginning of the year. I told him that we needed him to play some defensive secondary," O'Connor said. "We thought it would take away from his conditioning, but he dedicated himself to conditioning in the summer time and the results have shown up all season."
Folkes' big plays were only part of a defense that completely shut down the Dutchmen's run game in the second half. Following a competitive two quarters in which Lincoln held a 14-12 lead, they limited Erasmus Hall to -5 yards rushing and 36 yards of total offense for the rest of the contest.
This was the same offense in which Erasmus sophomore running back Kahlil Lewin, who replaced the injured Shaquell Jackson, tore up Yankee Stadium's Kentucky bluegrass for 123 yards in the first half.
"It starts with the defensive line. They just worked hard all day. We knew that that's where the game was going to be won," Folkes said. "I knew we had to force them to pass and we were right there to capitalize on it, when we cut off their run game. We came out in the second half on a mission."
Folkes wasn't the only defensive standout Tuesday night. Miguel Acevedo and Tevin Fraser had five and half tackles apiece, while Fraser also added a sack.
"We had a great defense last year and we lost 10 of those starters," O'Connor said. "This group stepped up at a lot of key moments this year. On this defense, you can't name guys because everybody is a factor, everybody steps up."
In addition to rushing for 80 yards on 18 carries, Folkes had three tackles and those two pass deflections on Morgan.
The final play went down in dramatic fashion as Morgan controlled the ball with only seconds left on the clock and an opportunity to tie the game. With the running lanes cut off and the only option left was to pass, Morgan swung to his left after escaping a tackle and heaved a prayer toward the end zone intended for 6-foot-5 tight end Luder Jean Louis.
"They knew I was banged up and I guess they wanted to test me. He's about 6-foot-5 and I'm about 5-foot-9, that was a major mismatch. He's the tallest receiver they have to go to and he was their guy," Folkes said. "It was man coverage and I knew once I locked him down, that was it. I swiped the ball down and the game was over."