- Last Updated: 2:58 AM, December 8, 2011
- Posted: 1:53 AM, December 8, 2011
ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Kareem Folkes was cramping up, there was an intense shooting pain in his left ankle and he was giving up eight inches to Erasmus Hall receiver Luder Jean Louis.
With the PSAL City Championship division football title on the line, Lincoln was elated with that matchup. Folkes, its all-everything senior leader, fought through the high ankle sprain and broke up the game-tying pass attempt from Wayne Morgan to seal the Railsplitters first title since 1993, 20-12 over E-Hall, and complete a memorable undefeated season.
“It shows you the heart of a lion,” Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor said. “He’s written his own legacy.”
He was in too much agony to spring to his teammates at midfield. Folkes, who previously injured the ankle in a semifinal win over DeWitt Clinton, tossed off his helmet and screamed in exhilaration instead.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “There’s no other way I would write this story. We made history. When I come back to the school years from now, I can say we did it.”
The defensive stand by the 5-foot-9 cornerback spoke volumes. He was the one big name back from last year’s runner-up, and he didn’t even play defense on that team. In the offseason, O’Connor asked Folkes to go both ways, and he never hesitated. In preparation, he put himself through intense conditioning.
Over the summer, he worked out at Chelsea Piers Blue Streak, a sports performance training organization in Manhattan. Folkes also worked out with Ishaq Williams’ father, Shaun.
“He ran in the morning, he ran in the afternoon and he ran in the night,” O’Connor said.
It paid off on both sides of the ball, Folkes running for a league-leading 28 rushing touchdowns and 1,748 yards and excelling as a lockdown corner for arguably the city’s top defense. Ironically, he put up his smallest numbers of the year on Tuesday – 80 yards rushing was usually a quarter of work for Folkes – but he was every bit the leader he’s been since the summer.
Quarterback Jessel Jones said he took motivation just from watching Folkes at far less than 100 percent. His cuts were slower, but he still gained yards. After taking a big hit, he got up clapping, encouraging his teammates.
“I know it inspired me,” Jones said. “It made me want to run harder, it made me want to play harder. Seeing him out there like that, it meant everything else has to pick it even more.”
He later added: “I feel honored to play with that guy right there. He did it all for us. He’s a horse.”
The championship game was billed as the best team (Lincoln) against the best player (Wayne Morgan). Morgan is an All-American who has been recruited by BCS programs like Alabama, South Carolina and Michigan and is down to Connecticut, Rutgers and Syracuse. Folkes, meanwhile, has a few College Football Sudvision looks, from Fordham, Wagner, Albany and Stony Brook.
Yet, on the biggest stage, the title on the line, Lincoln felt he left proved who is No. 1.
“He’s undoubtedly the best player in the city,” Jones said. ... He’s the best player in the city. Kareem Folkes broke up game-winning touchdown passes, scored today with one good leg, made first down runs. … There’s no arguing, there’s no doubting that. He’s done it all year.”Follow @NYPostsports