Springfield returns home, but falls to GW, 18-0

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Brandon Rush is a three-year starter for the Springfield Gardens football team, but the senior felt like he was playing his first game in the Golden Eagles’ green and gold Saturday despite an 18-0 loss to George Washington.

For the first time, Rush said, there were fans cheering for his team at a home game. After two years of playing “home” games at Campus Magnet, the Golden Eagles are back home and the old dilapidated track and eyesore of a football field have been replaced by a brand-new FieldTurf surface, part of the citywide Take the Field project.

“It felt real good, it felt different than any other time in the program,” Rush said. “I never actually played with a crowd cheering for us. It was easy to twist an ankle on the old field but the new field is a flat surface. It’s perfect to me.”

“That field was crazy, glass and dirt everywhere,” added senior Dwayne Brown. “This is a good thing. It gets the guys pumped up to see the school has done something for us.”

George Washington running back Roselio Rodriguez didn’t get to appreciate the new surface before the game. He and a handful of Trojans starters were too busy sprinting from the parking lot during Springfield Gardens’ first offensive series.

Because the bus never showed up at the school at 9:30 a.m., GW coaches and players were left scrambling for transportation and directions, causing a delayed start to the game. Some second-string players were there to start the game, but the starters were lost in southeast Queens in a cavalcade of cars.

“We went up and down the highway like six times. I thought I wasn’t going to make it,” said Rodriguez, who ran for 96 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries. “When I got here, I saw everyone already playing and the field was calling me. I was depressed, but when I got here the sun was shining.”

It certainly made for a bizarre scene, as a bevy of George Washington players emerged from cars, including some from upper Manhattan livery cabs — which cost the coaching staff almost $300 — and frantically sprinted toward the visitors bench, only to be told to return to the parking lot to pick up their shoulder pads.

“I’m kind of mad at the school, they should’ve handled the situation. That’s their job,” said senior linebacker Winston Okereke, who returned an interception 24 yards to put the Trojans ahead, 6-0 in the second quarter. “I wasn’t happy at all and I took my anger out on [Springfield Gardens].”

GW coach Jose Soriano said his athletic director, Steve Mandl, told him the bus company had been contacted but Soriano said he takes responsibility for the snafu.

“We didn’t get a bus,” he said. “I have to take the blame, I’m the head coach.”

Clinging to a 6-0 lead, George Washington (3-0) caught the Springfield Gardens defense off guard when the Trojans went for it on fourth and five from their own 16. Rush and Wali Reynolds were deep, expecting a punt, but then sprinted back to the line of scrimmage when they realized GW wasn’t punting.

By the time they were set, it was too late as Denys Zenon dropped back and hit a wide open Javier Pena at the Springfield 45 and the wide receiver ran the ball in for a 72-yard touchdown pass to put GW ahead, 12-0 with 9:01 left in the third quarter.

“Everybody was blitzing. It was a reflex, I just jumped and threw the ball,” Zenon said. “I thought it was going to be nasty but it was a spiral, thank God.”

GW capped its scoring with 8:02 left in the fourth quarter when Rodriguez ran in a sweep — the first pitch that didn’t result in a fumble and turnover — from 16 yards out to put the Trojans ahead, 18-0.

With Rush on the sideline nursing a bloody nose, Springfield Gardens (2-1) struggled offensively in the second half. The Golden Eagles ran just 10 plays for a total of 22 yards.

“They didn’t run the ball until the fourth quarter, we stopped their bread and butter until the end,” said first-year Springfield coach Charlie Yarborough. “It was just three mistakes: the interception, the fake punt and the reverse.”

Springfield Gardens players will not need very long in their search for revenge since the two teams meet again next week in the Bronx, a change in the schedule when the Flushing and Stevenson programs were dropped last month.

“Back to back is pretty weird, it feels like the NHL,” said Yarborough, a 26-year-old math teacher in the school. “But that’s OK, there’s no need for scouting because we already have the tape.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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