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Sophomore, Kangaroos hop over Campus Magnet

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Boys & Girls was on the cusp all season. The Kangaroos played tough against the highest level of competition – teams like Curtis, Sheepshead Bay and Kennedy. But heading into the playoffs, they were still looking for that signature win.

“Enough is enough,” sophomore running back Wilbert Lee thought to himself. “It’s time to win.”

That’s exactly what Boys did Saturday. Lee’s 70-yard touchdown run, one he might not have even gotten the chance to make if senior Kadeem Cousar didn’t get hurt, with 8:11 left in the fourth quarter gave the Kangaroos a seven-point lead and killed No. 7 Campus Magnet’s momentum. No. 10 Boys & Girls went on to win, 27-20, in the first round of the PSAL playoffs in wet and windy Queens.

“That’s what turned the game,” Bulldogs senior Jonathan (Panama) Achab Syms said of Lee’s run.

The underclassman came up big with an 82-yard kick-off return for a touchdown in a 20-14 win against New Utrecht in Week 2 and had a 75-yard kick-off return against Grand Street Campus last weekend. He also had a punt return for a touchdown and a running score and receiving score, too, as the youngest player on Boys & Girls’ roster.

“We gotta keep him humble,” senior running back Kristopher Moton said. “When I graduate, he’s gonna lead the team.”

Two of the high-profile teams Boys lost to – Curtis and Kennedy – were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday by Beach Channel and Tottenville, respectively, in a remarkably shocking start to the postseason. When the Kangaroos players learned that information afterwards, they were stunned. Boy & Girls will play that third team, borough rival and No. 5 Sheepshead Bay, next week in the quarterfinals. The Sharks beat the ’Roos, 6-0, in Week 8.

“We’re not gonna let this game go to our heads,” Moton said. “We’re gonna be like the [2007] Giants – go on the road and win some games.”

If Lee was the hero in the second half, Moton was the man in the first. Quarterback Evan Rugel hit him down the sidelines for a 35-yard strike to the Bulldogs’ 9 line and on the very next play Moton ran it in to give Boys & Girls a 21-6 lead with 3:11 left in the first half.

Campus Magnet (6-4) scored first, on its second play from scrimmage, when senior quarterback Evan Flowers hit Syms for a 50-yard touchdown, but Boys (7-3) came right back to take a 7-6 lead on Khalif Osson’s 7-yard touchdown run and Kerone Jerome’s extra point.

Moton had his first touchdown of the game, a 3-yard run, with 4:55 left in the first half. Syms’ botched punt in the driving rain, which actually lost six yards, was downed at the Campus Magnet 21 and six plays later the senior took it in. Moton’s second score was set up by junior David Nooks’ interception of Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Scott Gadsden.

Those mistakes came back to haunt Campus Magnet.

“It’s bad,” Syms said. “All my teammates were crying.”

They didn’t go down lightly, though, and actually came out in the second half with momentum. Flowers ran for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 21-12 with 1:44 left in the third quarter and a crazy play made it 21-20 with 10:02 left in the game. Campus Magnet senior running back James Johnson ran 22 yards to the Boys’ 2-yard line, where he fumbled the ball backward – right into the arms of a diving Anthony Roberts, who crawled into the end zone for the touchdown.

The Bulldogs, playing as a Level 5 team for the first time, were looking for their first playoff victory since coach Eric Barnett took over the program three years ago. But they weren’t just trying to squeak out one win in this postseason. Barnett said before the game that his players and his staff felt like they could win the city title.

“We weren’t just thinking first round,” Syms said. “We were thinking, Round 2, Round 3.”

The Kangaroos have some Bowl playoff wins – and even a Bowl championship – under coach Barry O’Connor, but had no city championship playoff victories.

Until now.

“It’s big for our community,” Moton said. “People don’t look at us as a power team.”

Boys & Girls is doing everything in its power to change that perception. The quest continues next week against Sheepshead.

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