BY JIM DOLAN & SHIV TRIVEDI
Fort Hamilton 18 Clinton 20
After completing a successful 2015 season that saw Fort Hamilton gain a fifth seed to go as far as the PSAL semi-final playoffs with a 10-3 record, the Tigers were looking to build on last season’s success at their home opener on September 11 with the always-tough Clinton Governors from the Bronx.
This season, one of the top running backs in the league, senior Troy Booker, returns for the Tigers, while converted running back Seba Nekhet also returns to the offense, but this time as the Tigers’ quarterback. Given his strong arm and commitment to the team, Nekhet was named to lead this season’s offense by Head Coach Dan Perez during the team’s annual awards luncheon this past February. With both seniors leading the charge, the Tigers are expected to finish as one of the stronger teams in the PSAL this season.
On their opening drive on Sunday however, the Tigers started three and out, and gave up a quick score to trail 8-0 early. They rebounded quickly with a three-yard TD run by Booker (100 rushing yards, one TD) set up by a 50-yard Nekhet run into Clinton territory. However, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the Tigers trailed 8-6.
With failed subsequent drives by both teams, Tiger DB Devin Wallace thwarted a Clinton deep pass attempt with an interception at the Tiger 5. Unable to move the chains though, the Tigers were forced to punt from their own end zone and the Governors capitalized with a three-yard TD pass but failed to convert the two points, giving themselves a 14-6 lead. Late in the half, the Tigers threatened but couldn’t pierce the Clinton defense and headed in at the half trailing by one score.
To open the third, the Tigers forced a punt but could not get immediately back on track. The Governors then drove 65 yards and scored on a 31-yard TD run on fourth and one. The unsuccessful two-point attempt put the visitors up 20-6 late in the third.
Trailing by two TDs, Nekhet (136 yards rushing, one rushing TD), led his team downfield and brought the Tigers to within one score with a four-yard TD run, but the conversion attempt failed and the Tigers trailed 20-12.
The Tiger defense held but the offense sputtered, so Clinton took over and burned the clock, forcing the Tigers to use their timeouts on defense, which again held and forced a punt. Booker’s return into Clinton territory set Nekhet (120 yards passing, one passing TD) up on the very next play for a connection with Benjamin Andrews (105 yards receiving, one TD) on a 35-yard TD pass along the left sideline with 1:10 left.
Needing two points to tie, Nekhet optioned the ball to Booker who fought through the intial tackle but was brought down just short of the goal line on the failed two-point conversion attempt. Now out of timeouts and with only one minute left, all the Tigers could do was watch Clinton take two knees to end the game.
Afterwards, Coach Dan Perez explained, “We didn’t come out of the gates like we wanted to. We just have to keep working hard and continue to improve.” Looking to get their season back on track, the Tigers visit South Shore (0-1) this coming Saturday.