For the 1-6 Tigers, this season’s homecoming came would be the last game of the season, as well as the final career game for 11 seniors as Fort Hamilton faced neighborhood rival New Utrecht (3-4). After winning for the first time this season against Tilden last week, the Tigers were looking for one last win to close out their schedule in front a large home crowd.
For homecoming, the school went all out, featuring the Tiger mascot, the school’s marching band, a cheerleading performance and the Fort Hamilton ROTC honor guard to present the colors for the national anthem. At half time, Fort Hamilton students Lester Hu and Mikayla Gallo were crowned Homecoming King and Queen, while Tiger running back Charles Kitsakos and Destiny Garcia were crowned as the Prince and Princess.
New Utrecht dominated the opening of the game as quarterback Isaiah Edquard and running back Darius Dupree controlled the ball until the Tiger defense, led by Will Paloumbis and Karim Dari, made a red zone stop to keep the first period scoreless. The Tiger defense could only contain Dupree for so long as New Utrecht’s primary running back raced 47 yards down the left sideline for the first score of the game. The Utes struck quickly again as Edquard found Frankie Rosas on the three-yard line on a 30-yard pass. Following his long reception, Rosas took the ball in for the score on a screen pass to give New Utrecht a 13-0 lead at the half.
To open the second half, Fort Hamilton’s Brandon “Reckless Abandon” Aranda brought the 1,000-plus students and supporters to their feet on the opening kickoff as the senior exploded 80 yards down the sideline to put the Tigers back in the game, 13-7. The Utes immediately answered with a 20-yard pass to Rosas in the corner of the end zone as New Utrecht took a 20-7 third quarter lead.
In the fourth quarter, Aranda electrified the crowd again on another touchdown run for 30 yards. Unfortunately, the senior’s score was once again nullified on a holding penalty, similar to last week’s game against Tilden.
Following the penalty call, the Tigers bounced back as Amir “Triple Threat” Alharbi connected on a halfback pass to Kitsakos for a 41-yard touchdown reception to narrow New Utrecht’s lead to 20-13.
With two minutes left, the Tigers were determined to make a final push to tie or win the game, but the ball just didn’t bounce their way. After holding New Utrecht at midfield, the Tigers muffed a punt at their own 15-yard line that the Utes recovered as time ran out. The win gave New Utrecht a final regular season record of 4-4, while Fort Hamilton finished with a record of 1-7.
Wrapping up the season in the postgame huddle, Fort Hamilton coach Dan Perez had a simple message for the team, especially the seniors. “I’m proud of this team’s effort this season,” he said. “I know you left it all out there on the field today to get this last win, but life moves on. This is just one stop in the journey of your life on your road to success.”