EAST ORANGE, NJ - If the game of football was limited to two quarters, the contest between the John F. Kennedy and East Orange varsity squads would have ended in a scoreless tie. However, a first half was played in which the Jaguars, enjoying home field advantage, prevailed by a score of 35-0. The third and fourth quarters proved to be a defensive struggle in contrast to the point explosion delivered by East Orange in the initial two frames.
Under sunny, autumn skies at Paul Robeson Stadium, the Knights kicked off to open competition. After a run gained ten yards, Jaguars’ running back Damon Phillips bounced off left tackle and raced upfield deep into Kennedy territory for a scintillating 60-yard gallop. The opening drive was temporarily stopped via a stonewall tackle delivered by JFK middle linebacker Dustin Matos. Unfortunately for the Knights, on 3rd down Phillips’ number was called again and the speedy junior sliced through the left side of the line for a score. The successful extra point resulted in a 7-0 East Orange lead.
The ensuing kickoff sailed near the goal line and bounced into the end zone giving Kennedy a 1st and ten from their own 20-yard line. From under center, the Knights’ junior quarterback Jaiden Sanitsteban kept the ball but lost four yards on a tackle by the Jaguars’ D’jaun Fisher. Soon thereafter, a quarterback sack forced a Paterson punt. The kick rolled to the Kennedy 42-yard line as the Knights were flagged for too many men on the field.
A 10-yard flair pass to the left flat resulted in a first down for the Jaguars, a play that was followed up by East Orange quarterback Oliver Raeden attempting to elude a fierce rush by Matos but getting collared for a big loss behind the line of scrimmage. Next up though, Phillips was able to knife through center and left guard for 15 yards and pinball into the JFK secondary for 20 more. The Jaguars then punched in the pigskin from the one-yard line for their second touchdown. The extra point sailed through the uprights as the home team expanded their lead to 14-0 with 5:19 left in the first frame.
Kennedy senior running back Kyle Readus returned the ensuing kickoff to his own 23-yard line. Led by 6’4” 325 pound defensive tackle Elijah McClain, the Jaguars proved tough to run against. Readus gained yardage on several attempts but not enough to move the chains and the Knights were forced to punt.
The Jaguars’ next offensive thrust began on their own 40. On a run up the middle, Phillips shifted from left to right several times, eluding defenders, and raced upfield for 30 yards before being pushed out of bounds by Readus. Knights’ senior linebacker Justin Ortiz, on one of his many tackles for the afternoon, stopped Raiden who had scrambled out of the pocket. With the ball on the Kennedy 27-yard line, Phillips was stopped by JFK senior linebacker Stanley Villalona but not before garnering five yards of real estate. A complete pass to senior wideout Sadiq Williams brought the Jaguars within a few yards of paydirt. However, the East Orange coaching staff opted for a pass and the ill-advised aerial was intercepted by the Knights.
From deep in their own territory, a penalty against East Orange gave Kennedy some breathing room on their ensuing possession. Readus continued to carry the load on the ground but the Knights failed to muster a first down and had to kick the ball away. The short punt became shorter as the ball hit the turf and caromed backwards, taking an East Orange bounce. From the shotgun, Raeden rolled left on a quarterback keeper and gained six yards but a flair pass to the right flat was broken up by Readus. Following a jarring tackle delivered by Kennedy’s Amari Hough, the handoff went to senior running back Locksley Burke who bolted six yards for the Jaguars’ third touchdown. The extra point ran the East Orange advantage to 21-0.
After kickoff, the Knights’ field position was enhanced due to a personal foul called on the Jaguars. After two rushing attempts yielded scant yardage, a Kennedy snap was fumbled. East Orange lineman Jaiden Stokes alertly scooped up the loose pigskin and rumbled down the right sideline into the endzone for a score. The extra point kick was good, leading to the score: East Orange 28-Kennedy 0.
The Jaguars were again able to stifle the next Paterson offensive efforts despite several valiant rushing efforts by Ortiz. Faced with a punting situation, the ball was booted high in the air and actually bounced off the helmet of a JFK player who was running down field where officials ruled the play dead.
The final East Orange score of the afternoon followed a brilliant catch of a long bomb by Terrel Neals. On what could be called the play of the day, the senior wide receiver raced down the right sideline, blanketed by sophomore Kennedy defensive back Rah’Meir Frye. Despite the excellent coverage, Neals was able to look and turn back at the last moment and make a diving catch before sailing out of bounds. On the next play, Phillips carried off right tackle for 19 yards and a touchdown.
Paterson was able to shut out their counterparts in the second half led by the inspired play of linebacker Reylin Dicent and fellow juniors, defensive backs Ahmed Nasim and Tyvon Holmes. However, the efforts came up short resulting in the final tally.
The Knights travel to Passaic to play their next contest on Friday night, October 30, at 7:00 p.m.
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