PATERSON, NJ - One thing about Friday night’s varsity football game between John F. Kennedy High School and Hackensack-if anyone left their heart attack medicine at home, they were in big trouble. The game featured evenly balanced squads, and the outcome was not determined until the very last play.
The first half was marked by a pair of touchdown runs courtesy of Kennedy’s senior running back Jamier Wright-Collins. Early in the contest, a two yard burst up the middle that hit pay dirt was followed by a 35-yard, around left end, scoring jaunt. JFK’s cause was bolstered by an interception by senior cornerback Brandon Curry.
The Comets tried to keep pace with two field goals of 26 and 30 yards.
The first half horn sounded with the Knights holding a 13-6 advantage.
The third quarter initially showcased excellent defense by both squads as a number of punts were traded. Key for Kennedy was holding Hackensack’s stellar senior running back Tymere Robinson in check, for the most part. On Hackensack’s initial second half offensive possession, Paterson’s senior tight end Caleb Ruffin provided several tackles, both of which resulted in scant yardage.
Shortly thereafter, upon receiving a punt, Kennedy was provided a first and ten on their own 27-yard line. Collins-Wright carried for five yards off left tackle and a quick-out, bullet pass by senior signal-caller Chris Silfa provided a first down. The Knights’ QB followed with a seven yard keeper up the middle but the following running play was stopped cold at the line of scrimmage by the Comets’ senior defensive tackle Christopher Woolaston, forcing another punt.
The Knights drove the ball to near midfield on their next offensive possession only to be forced to punt again. The surprise of a fake attempt, with the snap going directly to Wright-Collins, was stymied by a procedure infraction.
With 3:23 left in the third frame, Hackensack mounted a drive, courtesy of the running of Robinson. A sweep left saw the senior Comet turn the corner and race up the left sideline, untouched, for a 69-yard TD scamper. The extra point was good, evening the score at 13-13.
The ensuing kickoff saw the Knights with a 1st and ten at their own 35. Wright-Collins was injured on a running play but was able to walk off the field and return to the game, soon thereafter. Interim play caller Silfa turned in a 5-yard keeper. However, on the next play, a jump pass caromed off the intended receiver into the arms of a Hackensack defender for an interception.
Enjoying excellent field position, near midfield, Head Coach Benjie Wimberly’s troops started another drive. Robinson carried up the middle for three yards. A quick-out pass, right, to senior wide receiver Jordan Wimberly garnered a first down. Robinson then rumbled to the Knights’ 30-yard line. Offsetting personal penalties against both squads was followed by a 12-yard gain by the Comets which was recalled due to a holding penalty. The setback did not discourage, as senior quarterback M.J. Ramirez again handed off to Robinson who bolted 26-yards for a score. Senior Joseph Mora calmly booted the extra point providing Hackensack with a 20-13 lead with 11:33 left in the contest.
The following line-drive kickoff found Collins-Wright deep for Kennedy who turned in a nice 20-yard return. A Kennedy run was stonewalled via a tackle from Hackensack’s senior cornerback Isaiah Buster. A 3rd and three, no huddle, play near midfield saw Wright-Collins thrash for seven yards and a first down. With the quartet of senior offensive linemen Xavier Burns, Christian Wel, Denim Lighty, Brian Bynum, along with junior Devin Walters, paving the way for runs and protecting Silfa in passing situations, Kennedy’s drive continued with junior Kyle Readus bursting up the middle for ten yards. The punishing run set the stage for a sensational Silfa to Wright-Collins aerial connection which spelled touchdown. However, the 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Hackensack clinging to a 20-19 lead with 8:56 left in the contest.
The Comets returned Kennedy’s short kickoff to their own 48-yard line. JFK’s senior Brequan Moore stopped Robinson for a short gain. Following a Comet first down, Ruffin again came up big for the Knights with a crucial stop. The Comets soon threatened, however, to score by notching a first down at the Knights’ 30-yard line. However, both excellent pass and run defense by Kennedy turned the ball over. With 2:56 left in the game and a first down, the Knights had 79 yards of real estate to conquer to come up with a win.
A short run was followed by a short complete pass. With third down from their own 42, a JFK bomb over the middle was almost picked off by Hackensack’s Buster. On a 4th and four, do or die play, Silfa completed a 1st down pass to keep hope alive.
Brilliant play calling by JFK Head Coach Ron Jackson, and staff, saw the Knights not only manage the clock but also move into Comets’ territory to the 15-yard line. With 23 seconds left, the signature play of the evening then took place.
From the shotgun, Silfa gathered in the hike and rolled right. Wright-Collins purposely jetted toward the deepest part of the end zone’s right corner. Silfa’s bullet pass provided a jump ball contest between Wright-Collins and two Hackensack defenders. The former won the battle as Paterson fans erupted with excitement at the go-ahead touchdown. The two-point conversion was good, elevating Kennedy’s lead to 27-20.
If any fans finished their hot dogs and Cokes and headed for the exits thinking the game was over, they were sorely mistaken.
The Comets received the final kickoff and had possession near mid-field. A complete, quick out pass, right, knocked only one second off the clock. A successful, clutch long bomb over the middle then followed.
The play concluded with four ticks of the clock left.
For the game’s final play, from the shotgun, Ramirez gathered in the hike and looked downfield. A Hackensack receiver, already in the end zone, raced from right to left. Despite excellent coverage by Kennedy, the bullet pass found its mark for a diving, successful reception. As fans from both sides held their collective breaths, the cross-waving of both arms by the referee, signaling that the receiver had been out of bounds, revealed the outcome. The Kennedy faithful erupted with both joy and relief over the nail-biting finish.
The victory upped the Knights’ season record to 3-3. Kennedy travels to Ridgewood for their next contest on Friday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m.
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