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Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011: Erasmus Hall, Lincoln reach PSAL football final

   Leading off today: The PSAL championship Dec. 6 at Yankee Stadium will be an all-Brooklyn affair as Abraham Lincoln and Erasmus Hall scored victories Saturday.

   Erasmus Hall (9-3), which won the PSAL 'B' crown in 1986 and '87 but has never played in the premier division final, was extended to overtime before beating Tottenville 20-17. Lincoln (12-0) eliminated DeWitt Clinton 30-14 in the other Championship Division semifinal.

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   Sophomore Kahlil Lewin, subbing for injured running back Shaquell Jackson, scored in OT after seemingly being pushed out of bounds to give Erasmus Hall the win after Tottenville had to settle for a field goal on the opening possession of overtime.

   With Syracuse receiving recruit Alvin Cornelius playing QB in place of injured Brandon Barnes, Tottenville built a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, but Jackson scored on an 11-yard run and Wayne Morgan ran in the conversion (Erasmus Hall doesn't have a kicker) to cut it to 14-8 just before the half.

   Morgan recovered from a bout with cramps to score on a 1-yard dive with 5:56 to go two plays after ripping off a 40-yard gain.

   Tottenville's Ben Bifalco missed a 43-yard field goal with :05.5 left in regulation, then made a 37-yarder in OT.

   Meanwhile, Lincoln's Jessel Jones ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third in the Railsplitters' 30-14 win vs. Clinton. He finished with 107 rushing yards, and the defense rolled up seven sacks.

   Lincoln, a PSAL finalist last season, will be chasing its first championship in 18 seasons in the game vs. Erasmus Hall.

   Long Island finals: John Glenn roared to a 35-0 lead early in the second quarter and defeated Roosevelt 56-21 in the Long Island Class IV championship game at Hofstra University on Friday.

   Glenn (11-1 this fall and 43-3 since 2008, became the first school to claim back-to-back Class IV championships since Babylon in 2002 and '03.

   Rich Czeczotka completed 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards and ran 14 times for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Nick Wagner set Long Island championship game records with three interceptions (giving him eight on the season) and returning one of the picks 68 yards for a score. His 60-yard punt return for a score was the first in the LICís 20-year history.

   In Class II, Newfield defeated Garden City 14-7 for its first Nassau-Suffolk title. Julian Santiago (17 carries, 65 yards) broke a 7-7 tie with a 1-yard run with 11:25 left.

   The Woverines were inspired by a pre-game speech from alum Rob Burnett, an All-Long Island linebacker in the mid 1980s who went on to play at Syracuse University and in the NFL.

   "He said that since we're here, we have to seize the moment," Newfield's Michael Silva said. "He said, 'Don't be losers in the LIC. You have to win it all. For the seniors, this is going to be your last football game. So go out there and play like it.'"

   NYSPHSAA finals: The NYSPHSAA finals wrap up Sunday with a tripleheader at the Carrier Dome. On Friday, Letchworth earned its first state championship and Maine-Endwell secured its second.

   Letchworth downed Chester in Class D by a 27-0 margin as Clifton Bacon scored a pair of first-quarter TDs on a 25-yard rush and a 75-yard screen pass and finished with 136 yards of offense. Bacon was playing on a bad ankle that had briefly sidelined him during the semifinals a week earlier, avoiding the doctor's office out of fear that he'd be ordered to miss the final.

   Maine-Endwell capped its Class A season with a 27-20 win over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.

   Nick Sorrenti scored three second-half touchdowns as Maine-Endwell rallied from a 20-7 deficit. M-E took the lead when Sorrenti scored from 3 yards out and Stephen Pham added the extra point with 10:26 remaining.

   Luis Uceta ran for 117 yards and a touchdown in earning the game MVP honors. His 47-yard run on M-E's first play from scrimmage in the third quarter set up Sorrenti's 4-yard touchdown run that brought M-E within 20-14 with 9:26 left in the period.

   Mastin's farewell: Hornell is a long, long way from Emporium, Pa. And I'm not talking about the two-hour drive.

   With three years of junior varsity coaching at Cuba High under his belt, Gene Mastin crossed the state's southern border in 1979 to take over as coach at Cameron County High.

   "You've got to be lost to be there," he said with the hint of a smile recently. "They were 0-10. Everybody thinks this is tough. you try going to Western Pennsylvania when the team's 0-10 two years in a row and take over. But that's what I did. That was my first job."

   Mastin coached the team to records of 2-7-1 and 3-7 the first two years and then won back-to-back league championships. That was his ticket to Hornell, where he has been ever since.

   On Sunday, his Red Raiders face Croton-Harmon at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B championship. And the irony of his humble beginnings in the business will not be lost on Mastin. The career that began by inheriting a Pennsylvania team that was winless for two seasons -- by the way, Hornell had posted just one winning season in 20 years before his arrival -- could end this weekend with a 39-game winning streak and third consecutive state title.

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   Win or lose, it's the end of the line for Mastin as a coach. He's retiring from the position after the game.

   "I couldn't imagine that I would've done anything else. It's a great career but it's a tough career," he said.    It's somewhat trite but also certainly holds a degree of truth that Mastin has made it look easy at Hornell. He's Section 5's winningest coach with a record of 239-75-5 and his teams have captured 10 sectional championships. And as Chris Metcalf noted in his preview for the Livingston County News, there's no such thing as a bad interview with the man. There's a 100 percent chance that Mastin will be funny; and it's as likely that he'll tell you exactly what's on his mind at the time, which is an extension of the way he handles life in general.

   "Behind the scenes there's a lot of things that people don't see," Hornell quarterback Dom Scavo said. "He's always pulling something out of nowhere. It could be a real tense situation but coach is making a joke about something. But he's also right there making sure he has us doing all the right things.. He's the greatest coach in New York and he's an even better person, so playing for him is incredible. I wouldn't want to play for anybody else."

   Mastin wasn't the least bit put off when he was informed of the popular opinion that his team had been outplayed before escaping with a 20-14 overtime win vs. Alden two weeks ago in the state quarterfinals. "They did beat us -- they beat us up front," he said. "But we were there when it counted. We were there at the end and in overtime. And to be honest I don't care. We get to go to practice on Monday."

   Boom. Contrast that with the post-game milquetoast drivel you'll get from at least two-thirds of coaches.

   He's also not afraid to be the contrarian. At a time of the season when some colleagues run their toughest practices since two-a-days, some of Mastin's practices leading up to sectional games barely break 90 minutes. They don't even practice in pads after the sixth week of the season because Mastin cares more about instilling the need for proper blocking angles and getting lined up in the right down-and-distance schemes than about hitting for the sake of "staying tough." Toughness has a way of taking care of itself on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in Livingston County podunks.

   "For me the 'juice' has always been in finding a little better way to do something, finding a new approach," he said.

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