Motivated Peglegs Overcome Hellfighters in Centennial Homecoming Victory
October 28th, 2004
“We are an extremely tough team, and we came out fighting. They were obviously bigger and stronger than us, but they did not have the same amount of heart as we did. We physically and mentally wore them down, and they eventually lost their composure.” These triumphant words from senior and two-way star Alex Zedlovich reflect the jubilant and euphoric state of the Peglegs, Stuyvesant’s Varsity Football Team, following its 20-14 victory in the 2004 Homecoming Game over Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Harlem Hellfighters.
Adding extra significance to the game was that it was Stuyvesant’s Centennial Homecoming, and as a result, an unprecedented number of fans cheered the Peglegs on at Midwood Field in Brooklyn. The victory marked the first Peglegs Homecoming triumph in five years, and elevated the 2004 team’s record to 3-2 (2-2 in division play).
The Peglegs started off the game with a tremendous amount of passion, and fueled by the running game of senior Simon Lee, on the game’s opening drive, efficiently moved the ball down the field and into the end zone to take an early 7-0 lead. The Peglegs defense took over from there, and the unit did not allow Marshall to score any points the entire first half, as the Peglegs took a 7-0 lead in at halftime.
Early in the second half, however, it became clear that Marshall was not going away without a fight, as the Hellfighters seized the lead late in the third quarter following a touchdown and two-point conversion. With their backs against the wall, and without the lead or the momentum for the first time all game, the Peglegs responded early in the fourth quarter with a sustained drive highlighted by a 30 yard completion to senior wideout Sam Brookfield. The drive was capped off once again by a Lee’s second rushing touchdown of the game, and the resilient Peglegs recaptured the lead, 14-8.
Brookfield’s reception was the Peglegs’ largest play from scrimmage all afternoon. Brookfield explained his view on the game-breaking play. “The call was a basic slant pattern, a quick slant. I knew it was going to work right as I lined up, because the defensive back was playing seven or eight yards off the line of scrimmage, and the slant is a real quick pattern, so I knew it was going to be open right away.”
Following another defensive stop, the Peglegs sealed the victory with another impressive drive, this one highlighted by a clutch 20 yard reception on 4th down from Zedlovich, and completed once again by the incomparable Lee, for his third rushing touchdown of the game. Once Zedlovich recovered the ensuing onside kick, the Peglegs were able to celebrate their unexpected upset of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s talented Harlem Hellfighters.
What were the primary reasons for the Peglegs’ success? For starters, the steady and at times dominant rushing attack of Lee (31 carries for 181 yards and 3 TD’s) helped control the game’s time of possession, and this prevented Marshall’s vaunted offense from stepping onto the field. As coach Matt Hahn explained, “Simon was truly outstanding, in every facet of the game for us. So far this year, he has been our workhorse. He was responsible for all of our points: the touchdowns and the extra points. He even punted the ball well and made some plays on defense for us, you can’t say enough about him.” Senior lineman Andrew Kim summed up Lee’s performance best, “he is our superman, I would go to hell and back with him.”
Additionally, the defense played with a tenacity and aggressiveness not seen all year. This can likely be attributed to the return of senior linebacker and captain Alejandro Aramburu to the defense following an injury. Described by Brookfield as “exceedingly smart” and by Kim as “the unquestioned inspirational leader of the defense, the team’s heart and soul,” Aramburu recorded a solid five tackles, and more importantly, lifted the play of his teammates, who were inspired to see their leader back on the field. Also worth mentioning were the contributions of Zedlovich (10 tackles, 3 for a loss), and senior and game captain Peter Bockwoldt (10 tackles, 2 for a loss).
A final reason for the victory was an unprecedented amount of fan support, and the emotional impact this had on the players. As Hahn noted, “I have never seen a team more motivated, you could see the enthusiasm and intensity in their faces. The team was very motivated to win on Homecoming, since for most of the team, this was their fourth one, and they had not won one yet. With the size of the crowd, the win was so great.”
Zedlovich echoed Hahn’s sentiments, “it was awesome to actually play in front of a nice crowd. With all of the fans cheering us on, it was a cool environment to play in, and they definitely motivated us to play well. The band, the mascot and the cheerleaders all provided a great game feel to the experience.”
Though the major themes of the Centennial Homecoming Game were Stuyvesant’s illustrious past (100 years), and its accomplished present (20-14 victory in the game), a prevailing sense of optimism arose concerning the Peglegs’ future. Though the team’s remaining schedule is difficult, the victory over Marshall proved that no task is impossible for the Peglegs. As Hahn observed, “if we build on our momentum and remain focused, we can pick up a lot of power points, and even have an outside shot for the playoffs.”