It was a contest that was brewing all season as the first-seeded (10-0) Erasmus Dutchmen took on the second-seeded (9-1) Canarsie Wolf Pack at Springfield Gardens H.S. for the PSAL A Conference Championship. As winners of the City Championship for the past three seasons (2018, 2019 and 2021), Erasmus Coach Danny Landberg urged his team to focus on the game in front of them, just as they had routinely done throughout the playoffs.
This meeting marked the Wolf Pack’s return to a championship game after a 15-year absence. Canarsie’s return to the top was in large part due to the two-year rebuilding process on the arm of senior quarterback Chris Howell, one of the PSAL’s top season passers, with 32 touchdowns. With Erasmus beating Canarsie 31-13 during the regular season, this game would finally give the Dutchmen an unprecedented “four-peat” PSAL title or would give a rebounding Wolf Pack an upset title win.
After a 45-yard drive, Dutchmen quarterback Vincent Cajano opened the scoring with a 5-yard pass to Jaylin Ballew, who fought his way across the goal line. The Wolf Pack followed on their next possession with Nikai Brown’s 40-yard pass reception to the Erasmus 48-yard line. Although Canarsie crossed mid-field, the Pack was shut down by the Dutchmen defense to end the first quarter with Erasmus leading 7-0.
In the second quarter, the Dutchmen defense rose to the occasion as Lorenzo Jones forced a Canarsie fumble on a punt that was recovered Damon Ennett. Starting from the Canarsie 25-yard line, Cajano passed down to the 4-yard line. From there, the Dutchmen’s top rusher Zaire Andrews lined up in an “I-formation” and waltzed into the end zone for a 14-0 first half lead.
Riding their first-half momentum, Cajano opened the third quarter with the play of the game that would give the Dutchmen the insurance that they needed. On a run-pass option play, the senior quarterback went with the pass to surprise the Canarise defense as he connected with Lyrick Samuel on a 45-yard crossing route to increase the Erasmus lead to 21-0.
With the fourth quarter nearing the end, the Erasmus defense shut down Canarsie’s last attempt to score as Caden Brown broke up Howell’s pass that trickled to Ryan Alexander for an interception. While holding their opponents scoreless during this season’s four-game playoff series, the Dutchmen also scored an impressive 153 points to conclude the playoffs.
Commenting on his fourth consecutive championship season, Coach Landberg said, “The kids wanted it, they played hard for it and they deserved it. They responded to the challenge and we got the result. It was a very challenging year, but it was all worth it.”
Praising his senior quarterback, Landberg said, “Vincent Cajano performed for us all season and on that RPO to Lyrick Samuel, he got the job done when it mattered.”
As for Cajano, the four-year varsity player from Dyker Heights has earned an early graduation in January from Erasmus and will move on to play on scholarship at Wagner College. Noting his son’s success with Coach Landberg, Vincent Sr. said, “He responded well to the program and it really paid off.”