The Bayside Commodores were hanging their playoff hopes on sweeping the team's final four league football games, something the club seemed well on its way to accomplishing following back-to-back wins over Springfield Gardens and South Shore.
All that remained were contests against Queens foes Campus Magnet and August Martin. Someone, however, forgot to tell the Campus Magnet Bulldogs.
Jimmy Ryan's team went a long way to solidifying its own playoff chances Saturday by stunning the Commodores, 21-18, at the Bayside Athletic Field, thanks to the performances of three key players and a little wind thrown in.
"That's what won the game," said Ryan of his team's decision to defer the opening kickoff and ensure the stiff wind at their backs at the end of the game. "It was nice to come here and win."
The Bulldogs got some help along the way, however.
The game could not have started worse for Bayside, which came into the contest with hopes of a 4-4 league mark, something which would have all but assured the team a playoff berth. But things quickly went south for the Commodores.
After C.J. Okogeri picked up 16 yards on Bayside's first play from scrimmage, the junior tailback carried two plays later and lost the ball on the Bayside's 30-yard line. The ball bounced backward until Okogeri recovered it on the run close to Commodores' goal line. He was finally brought down at the 5, setting up 3-and-39.
After a 13-yard run by Andre Lewis, Bayside punted into a steady wind and, aided by a favorable bounce, the Bulldogs took over at the Bayside 35.
A 5-yard run by Raheim Bazile followed by a 13-yard run by Trevor Nelson set up Nelson's 17-yard scoring run. Ian Bruce's extra point gave Magnet a 7-0 lead at the 7:22 mark of the first quarter.
"We practiced real hard for this game," said Nelson, who finished with 86 yards rushing. "It feels real good. I'm just happy."
Things went from bad to worse for Bayside, which was ruled to have downed the ensuing kickoff at its own 1-yard line. Okogeri, Lewis and Coleman carried the ball out to the 22, but Bayside was forced to punt, again into a stiff wind. Another favorable Magnet bounce gave the Bulldogs the ball at the Commodores' 24.
After Bayside began keying on the potent ground attack of the Bulldogs, Ryan called for a pass on fourth-and-12 from the 14. Quarterback Naim A'Malik hit sophomore wide receiver Eugene Liddie for the first down at the 1-yard line.
One play later A'Malik took the ball in himself. The two-point conversion was no good, giving Magnet a 13-0 lead one play into the second quarter.
"That first quarter was big," said Bayside coach Joe Capuana. "They took advantage of their opportunities."
Bayside did get on the board in the first half, driving 96 yards two drives later behind the running of Okogeri, who carried six times for 63 yards on the drive, setting up quarterback Jamel Howard's 5-yard scramble for a touchdown.
The extra point was no good, but Bayside trailed by only seven, 13-6, with 2:54 remaining in the half.
Magnet took over on its own 41, but on third-and-three, Nelson coughed up the ball and Bayside' Antonio Valme recovered at the Commodores' 49.
Howard went straight to work, hitting Okogeri for a 40-yard pass to the Magnet 11. Okogeri, however, had to come out of the game with a knee injury after the play and did not return, something that would come back to haunt the Commodores in the second half.
With 20 seconds remaining in the second, Howard hit Lewis for a 13-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was again no good and Magnet went into the lockerooms with a 13-12 lead.
Bayside took the lead two plays into the fourth quarter on another Howard to Lewis pass completion of 23 yards. The play was the culmination of a 74-yard drive highlighted by two key defensive penalties, including a a pass interference call on third-and-11 and an unsportsmanlike conduct call that gave Bayside 15 yards and first down on the Bulldogs' 35.
Undaunted, Magnet went right back to work. Courtney Jones, A'Malik, Bazile and Nelson all carried the ball, as Magnet ran the ball exclusively to the Bayside 17, before the drive stalled, setting up fourth-and-15. And just like he had in the first half, Ryan called Liddie's number. A'Malik fired a strike to the streaking sophomore, who hauled it in at the 1 and rolled into the end zone with 4:23 remaining in regulation.
"That's one of the best plays we do," said Liddie, who told Ryan early in the season to throw the ball to him more and he would catch it.
With Okogeri icing a sore knee on the bench and unable to carry the load, Bayside' chances to getting back on the board were hampered severely. Still, Howard led the Commodores to the Magnet 30 before the drive stalled.
Bayside turned the ball over on downs and Magnet sat on the ball to end the game.
"We came out great but we lost our composure," A'Malik said. "We came back and we did what we had to do to win. This is a big win for us. We had to play our best game of the year."
Magnet (4-3) will take on the winless John Adams Spartans (0-7) next week, while Bayside (2-5) will look to bounce back against August Martin (5-2), overtime winners over Brooklyn Tech this week.
August Martin 20, Brooklyn Tech 14. Quarterback Lyle Williams scored on a sneak in the extra session to lift the Falcons. The senior signal-caller was 4-for-7 for 123 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Arrington. Anthony Pittman rushed 28 times for 188 yards and a score for Martin.
Evander Childs 58, Flushing 6. Dwayne Thompson led the way for Childs with 224 yards on seven carries, including four touchdowns. Childs improved to 7-0 while the Red Devils fell to 1-6. Flushing takes on Bryant in the battle for Flushing Memorial Field Sunday at 11 a.m.
Boys & Girls 44, John Adams 12. The Spartans' slide continued as Dwayne Ross led the way for the Kangeroos with 134 yards, including a touchdown. Boys and Girls improved to 5-3 while Adams, which finishes its season at Campus Magnet Sunday at 11 a.m., dropped to 0-8.
Columbus 11, Springfield Gardens 9. The Golden Eagles playoffs hopes were dashed Friday night when Columbus' Erjon Marku booted a game-winning 30-yard field goal in the closing seconds. Springfield hopes to erase its three-game losing streak Sunday when they head to Beach Channel to take on the 5-2 Dolphins, 30-8 losers to Port Richmond Saturday.
Far Rockaway 20, Bryant 14. Aaron Pegues scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime to lead the SeaHorses. Michael Toney rushed for 70-yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run. Far Rockaway improved to 5-3, 5-2 PSAL while Bryant fell to 1-6.
-Dylan Butler contributed to this story.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.