The Flatbush Varsity Flag Football Team extended its season on Sunday afternoon (12/30) with a quarterfinal win then saw it come to an abrupt end three hours later with a loss in the semifinals of the Mesivta Football League Playoffs on the turf field at Lawrence HS in Cedarhurst, NY.
The regular season came to an end last weekend, and only the top 6 finishers in the MFL advanced to today’s quarterfinal and semifinal games. Flatbush finished the regular season with a record of 4-4, earning the Falcons the 5th seed in the playoffs and an opening round quarterfinal match up with Mesivta Atreres Yaakov. MAY qualified for the playoffs with the 4th overall seed, one spot ahead of the Falcons primarily by virtue of having won the head-to-head match up between the two teams back in week two on a controversial finish. Flatbush came in to the game looking to advance, and perhaps get a modicum of revenge at the same time.
If the start of a game is any indication of how the game will finish, then the game started with the best of omens for the Falcons. On the opening play from scrimmage, the Eagles quarterback put the ball in the air looking for a quick spark to the game, but Abie Soussan ranged back on the ball and came up with an interception, taking control and handing the ball to the Falcons’ offense.
With a quick swing of momentum, Flatbush Quarterback Sol Laniado went right to work and orchestrated a touchdown drive. Flatbush opened up with runs by Laniado and then David Cohen for a first down. MAY was then flagged for pass interference on Ezra Dweck which handed the Falcons another big chunk of yards. Laniado then connected with Dweck on 2nd and goal for the opening score of the game. Laniado capped off the drive with a pass to Ikey Tawil who pulled in the low pass for the conversion and an early 7-0 lead.
MAY went to the run on the next possession, and they quickly moved down the field. Switching back to the pass, Tawil looked to have made an amazing interception. But, the official ruled he blew the whistle before the ball was thrown. With the ball still in their hands, MAY ran a pick play for a score, and after the extra point, the game was even, 7-7.
Flatbush moved the ball to midfield, then stalled. Facing 4th down, Head Coach Muray Tawil knew how important staying in front would be against these Eagles and he left the offense on the fields. Laniado took the snap, and was soon flushed out of the pocket. He moved towards the sideline, turned the corner, picked up the first down and then some. He went all the way up the side line for the score. A quick hit to Dweck dragging the goal line was good. In a flash, Flatbush was back in the lead, 14-7.
With the ball in hand, MAY completed a long pass when the receiver was left wide open, then evaded two tackles. The Flatbush defense then tightened up as Ikey Tawil and Jakey Tawil turned in back-to-back defensive stops. Another incomplete pass brought up fourth and very long. Alex Mikhli made the stop just short of the line to gain, and forced the MAY turnover on downs.
Flatbush had a golden opportunity to build a cushion, and on the first play Laniado completed a pass to Michael Chattah who then ran for the first down at midfield. But the drive stalled there, and the Falcons were forced to punt. With time running down, the Falcon defense had a major lapse in coverage as MAY got behind the backs for their second score. They made the conversion look easy. Just before the half. It was now 14-14.
But, 15 seconds remained in the half, and Flatbush made them count. Laniado dropped back and let the ball fly. He connected with Abie Soussan who hit the afterburners to take the ball in for the go-ahead score. It was a huge play, and at the half Flatbush held the lead, 20-14.
Flatbush started the second half with the ball and an opportunity to build a two-score lead. Laniado opened with a quick strike for 40 yards to Soussan. But again the drive stalled, as a touchdown pass went off the hands of Dweck. Coach Tawil chose to punt, pinning the Eagles on their one yard line. It was a genius call, as on the ensuing play, MAY fumbled the snap in the end zone, resulting in a safety and two incredibly important points for the Falcons.
The game had changed from an explosion of offense in the first half to a true defensive battle in the second half. Flatbush had the ball, but now struggled to move it, and soon turned the ball over again on a punt. MAY also struggled to move the ball, and Flatbush forced a fourth down and long. The Eagles looked for the end zone, but Soussan had other ideas as he recorded his second interception of the game (though the Falcons would have been better off with a straight incompletion), giving the Falcons the ball, but deep in their own zone on their own three yard line.
After two failed plays, Laniado bought some room with a completion to Dweck on third down, and then they gave the ball back with a punt on the next play. With five minutes remaining, the Eagles had the ball back looking for the tying score. The Falcon front three, led by Joey Maswary, brought the pressure and flushed the Eagle quarterback out of the pocket. It looked like a grounding call should have been made, but the officials ruled the flag was pulled prior to the pass and MAY retained possession. On the next play, MAY got into the end zone, closing the deficit to only two points. It’s set up a big two point conversion play. Flatbush looked to have made the stop, but was called for holding, giving the Eagles another shot from five yards closer. The defense held again, and with one minute to play, Flatbush had the ball and the lead, 22-20.
On second down, Laniado evaded the defense and looked to take the ball up the sidelines for a score, but the official – trailing way behind the play – inexplicably ruled him out of bounds. Nevertheless, Flatbush had the ball in the Eagle zone, and looked to be able to run out the clock. But the Falcons showed poor clock management, with incomplete passes stopping the clock and preserving the Eagle timeouts. Flatbush turned the ball over on downs, and MAY had the ball back with 25 seconds to play.
Flatbush needed one more big defensive stand. MAY moved the ball down the field with short sideline passes, but traded the completions for time. With 7 seconds left, the Eagles had one last chance. They challenged deep in the corner of the end zone where Mikhli was ranging. The ball went up, the receiver went up, Mikhli went up . . . but Mikhli has the inside position. He knocked the ball away as the clock expired, sealing the 22-20 win and moving the Falcons on the championship game, scheduled for two hours later in afternoon.
The opponent in the Semifinal contest would be top-seeded Yeshiva Darchei Torah. YDT came in to the game with the top seed, and having defeated the Falcons just one week ago. But that game had no bearing on the standings, and Flatbush played it without a number of their regular starters on hand. Could they get a different result and advance to the MFL Finals for the first time ever?
Flatbush won the toss and deferred, putting the Falcon defense on the field to start the game. Darchei ran short passes, and when they connected on the fourth, the Falcon defensive back missed the tackle and the receiver went in for the opening score. They added the conversion, and YDT had the early 7-0 lead.
Flatbush went backwards on their first drive, and after three unsuccessful plays, they punted the ball back to Darchei. For the second possession, Darchei moved the ball, and then scored when the Falcons defense failed at pulling the receiver’s flag. Jack Dweck made the first big defensive play, getting a sack to stop the extra point try, but YDT had a 13-0 lead.
With the ball back, Laniado completed a short pass to David Cohen, but then got sacked on the next play. Facing third and long, Laniado connected on another deep ball to Soussan for a first down at the 45. Cohen ran for 7 yards on the next play. On the next play, Laniado hit Soussan in stride to get Flatbush on the board. The pair connected again as Soussan toed the sideline, and Flatbush cut into the deficit, 13-7.
Darchei came right back on a deep strike, and the officials ignored both a post-play taunt of the Falcon defender and comments from the Darchei players towards the Flatbush sideline. Darchei went for two, and made it, to go up 21-7.
Once again, Laniado went for the quick strike, and again Soussan got behind the defense for a long touchdown connection. Laniado then hit Ezra Dweck for the conversion and the score was now 21-14.
On Darchei’s first play from scrimmage, Flatbush finally got a call moving YDT’s offense back. Soussan made a big defensive play at the goal line to deny Darchei. The next play, Joey Maswary was shoved after the play, and Darchei’s player was ejected. The defense again denied the last attempt of the half, and at intermission, Darchei led the Falcons 21-14.
Flatbush started the second half with the ball. After a Laniado run, Flatbush looked for a deep strike to Dweck. It was defended, but Darchei roughed the passer for an automatic first down. Laniado hit Soussan along the sideline, and ten yards were added at the end when he was flat-out tackled. Dweck pulled in the next pass at the two. Flatbush avoided disaster on the next play when an interception in the end zone was dropped. The next play was a hand off to Cohen, who approached the goal line and looked to go in untouched. But, his flag was wrapped and the official ruled he was touched before crossing the goal line, and the score was denied. Faced with fourth down, Laniado scrambled to buy time and let fly the ball, but his pass to Soussan was short, and they turned the ball over on downs. Flatbush thought they had a game-tying score, but the ball – and the momentum – was now in the hands of YDT.
Darchei completed three big passes, and soon had a two-score lead. The conversion attempt was successful, and the score was now 28-14. With the ball back, Laniado hit Cohen near the sideline, but he was out of bounds when he got control. He found Soussan on the next play to set up third and 10. But as Laniado tried the let the play develop, the defensive line got through for the sack, forcing a Falcons punt. Another set of missed tackles by the Falcons defensive backs allowed Darchei another score, and their lead was now 35-14.
Flatbush had the ball back, but needed to score to extend the game. On the second play from scrimmage, Laniado scrambled and bought time, and completed the ball down field. But he was injured on the play, and when the official called for timeout Laniado was forced off the field for one play. Ezra Dweck stepped in for Laniado. He looked to make something happen, and tried to get the ball to Michael Soussan behind the defense. But his pass hung up in the air, there was a battle for the ball and the wrong man came down with it. It was a turnover. It ended the game and Flatbush’s quest for their first football championship.
Afterwards, Coach Tawil took a moment to reflect on the season. “I cannot express how proud I am of our boys,” shared Tawil. “We battled hard in every game, and we really showed heart as the boys strung together a number of big wins in the middle of the season. We had a great team effort in the quarterfinal game, and pulled off a big win. Playing back-to-back is just so difficult, and the boys never quit. I will miss this group, but I am also looking forward to seeing these Juniors join with a strong group of JV’s that will be coming up to challenge for a championship next fall!”