PATERSON, NJ - In a hard hitting contest which featured numerous players in both halves sustaining injuries, John F. Kennedy’s High School varsity football squad lost a close contest to Clifton 14-7 on Thursday.
The visiting Mustangs were led by senior running backs Christian Bonaparte and Andre Gardner.
While the Knights’ offense was able to mount a number of promising offensive drives only one, shortly following a spectacular play on the very first hand-off of the game, resulted in a score. The touchdown, by senior Jamier Wright-Collins, was complimented by the steady senior notching what would have been another TD but his goal line crossing punt return was nullified by a holding penalty.
Kennedy received the opening kickoff and returned the ball to their own 32-yard line. The handoff then went from junior signal caller Chris Silfa to Wright-Collins who bounced off a tackle and jetted deep inside Clifton territory. The 53-yard, electrifying scamper led to a touchdown run shortly thereafter. The extra point was good and the Knights owned an early 7-0 lead.
The Mustangs answered on their next offensive series with several nice runs by Bonaparte.
Kennedy’s defense was led by senior defensive tackle Aushawn Adams with several jarring tackles. However, Clifton was able to forage inside the JFK 25-yard line. With 6:52 left in the first quarter, Mustangs’ sophomore quarterback Kyle Vellis rolled left and fired to senior running back Eddie Maldonado for a first down. However, a delay of game penalty and the alert coverage and tackling of senior Knight cornerback Brandon Curry quelled the rally.
On the ensuing Kennedy possession, Silfa found senior wide receiver D’ahveon Andrews over the middle for a first down. However, on the next series, defensive pressure on Silfa by Clifton defensive tackle Ahmad Ramadan prevented the Knights from crossing midfield.
The remainder of the first half turned into a punting contest between the two squads as neither could mount a serious scoring drive until Clifton’s final possession. Senior defensive tackle Brian Bynum stepped up for the Knights with a number of stonewalling, jaw-jarring tackles for no gain, including one on Bonaparte.
Toward the end of the second frame, Bonaparte shook loose for a big gain after bouncing off senior right tackle Abraham Montalvo. With time running out on the clock, the Mustangs had a first-and-ten on the Kennedy 15-yard line. However, any scoring hope was quelled by the stops from the Knights’ Bynum and fellow senior defensive tackle Jalen Hargrove.
At halftime, fans were treated to a performance by Clifton’s award winning marching band with a ‘Salute to Motown’ set of songs.
Perhaps the most spectacular play of the game came when Wright-Collins received a punt. After gathering in the line drive kick near midfield, the Kennedy multi-purpose performer found running room down the middle but was soon engulfed in traffic. Miraculously emerging from the fray, Wright-Collins pin-balled off two more would-be tacklers and spurted into the end zone. However, the scintillating return was nullified by a block-in-the-back penalty.
Clifton was able to nicely alternate the running of Bonaparte and Gardner with the precision short passing of Vellis to mount their two second half scoring drives.
Midway through the fourth quarter, following a fumble recovery, Kennedy advanced inside the ten-yard line but an errant jump pass was intercepted near the goal line. The Knights had one more opportunity to score but the endeavor was marred by a rash of penalties including several illegal procedures and sideline warning calls.
In the second half the Knights’ offensive line, including Christopher Woolaston, Areil Gomez, and Christian Wel, were able to protect junior quarterback Armin Hunte who turned in several nice runs from the shotgun. However, Clifton’s defense answered the call by bending, but not breaking, leading to the final tally.