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Archrivals feel like family, coaches make peace

Campus Magnet’s Antoine Allen after scoring a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 22-15 win over Flushing. Photo by William Thomas
TimesLedger Newspapers

Instead of verbal barbs, Flushing Coach Jim DeSantis and Campus Magnet’s Eric Barnett tossed bouquets at one another. The two Queens coaches, who nearly came to blows after last year’s showdown between the borough’s top public school programs, made peace this week.

“I respect him for what he had to say and I hope he respects me,” Barnett said.

The result on the field was the same as the last meeting — Campus Magnet scored late to pull out a hard-fought, 22-15 victory over Flushing in Public Schools Athletic League City Championship division football Saturday afternoon, its third straight victory over its rival.

“It was a Queens battle the way a Queens battle should be,” DeSantis said.

Instead of the focus on the two coaches, the talk afterward was of the play on the field. Last year’s customary handshake line led to a near fight between coaches. This time it was pleasant and lengthy, between coaches and players, many of whom have played together in the Pop Warner ranks.

“We have respect for them,” Campus Magnet quarterback Kahlik Greenwood said. “We’re all childhood friends.”

The Bulldogs coaching staff is completely comprised of Springfield Rifles coaches while Flushing has plenty of Rifles players on its roster, which has created a heated rivalry for bragging rights.

“This was like the Hatfields versus the McCoys,” Barnett said. “This was family going at it. It was huge.”

Befitting the rivalry, the two teams went back and forth, trading the lead several times. Flushing struck first, on an Andrew King 52-yard touchdown run, but Campus Magnet responded right away, and it was 8-8 at halftime.

Greenwood was integral to the victory, throwing two touchdown passes and running for a third, a 1-yard keeper on a bootleg to give the Bulldogs the lead for good with 4:47 left, answering Jason Gonzalez’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Shaquon Roberts on the previous possession. Overall, he completed 9-of-16 passes for 133 yards, a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jared Ward and a 7-yard strike to Antoine Allen.

“We said all week he was going to be the best quarterback we’ve played this year,” DeSantis said. “They lose [Scott] Gadsden and don’t miss a beat. He may be better. He’s smooth, he doesn’t get rattled.”

Flushing (4-3) responded with a long drive and got down to the Campus Magnet 4-yard line in the closing seconds. But quarterback Jason Gonzalez’s fourth-down attempt fell incomplete as time expired. His receiver, Bromley Fairclough, looked like he was held on the play, but DeSantis said Gonzalez missed an open receiver.

The errant throw set off a raucous celebration by Campus Magnet, which has now won three in a row since a shocking loss to two-win Thomas Jefferson. There is no more important game during the regular season than Flushing.

“It’s the Queens championship,” said Kareem Turnage, a middle linebacker/running back for Campus Magnet who ran for 79 yards. “This is one game I can’t lose.”

Flushing is just trying to win one of these contests. Its three losses to Campus Magnet are by a combined 18 points, though DeSantis played down their significance.

“They’re a good football team — there are teams in the city as a coach in 20 years I have never beaten,” he said.

A semifinalist a year ago, Campus Magnet, meanwhile, is now starting to find itself, sitting at 5-2 and looking at a high playoff seed. They finally clicked on all cylinders, with Greenwood making plays, Turnage, Philip Rankin and Aaron Welch establishing a versatile ground game and the defense holding strong at the end.

“Last week was the defense and special teams; two weeks ago it was the running game,” Barnett said. “Today the offense put it all together.”

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