PATERSON, NJ- Despite disturbances in the stands which caused an extensive delay in play and led to the exodus of over 300 spectators during the third quarter, the JFK Knights held steady to record an impressive victory over the Bulldogs of Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) on Friday.
The 27-19 win for the home team marked a milestone in the long career of Knight’s Head Coach Ron Jackson who showed post-game emotion thanking his players for their perseverance, as it was the first time his team has registered a win against their cross-county rivals. It also upped the Knights season record to 4-1 putting them in position to notch a post-season playoff berth.
The opening half saw the visiting Bulldogs control the line of scrimmage with a steady and sure ground attack. One of the most valuable Kennedy assets was the right foot of punter Jayden Cornish, whose precise kicks often left Passaic Tech with poor field position.
PCTI’s opening drive was quelled, resulting in the Knights’ initial possession starting at their own 41-yard line. A 25-yard run by senior Calvin Clyburn and an 8-yard sweep left, by Jamier Wright-Collins, brought the Knights within nine yards of pay dirt. Senior quarterback Evelon Babbs then sprinted up the middle for more yardage but the ball popped into the air and the Bulldogs recovered the fumble.
On Kennedy’s ensuing possession, Babbs, from the shotgun, managed to gather in a high snap and slice off right guard for eight yards. However, the PCTI defense stiffened and the drive stalled.
Passaic Tech then turned to the ground to complete a scoring drive. Despite stops by the duo of seniors, middle linebacker Darien Davis and cornerback Ya’zeir Francis, and sophomore lineman Brian Bynum, the Bulldogs were able to eventually punch in a short TD run.
Kennedy’s final possession saw the Knights with a first down deep in Bulldog territory. Babbs fired a pass to the left sideline to the 6-yard line. On the last play of half, Babbs scooted up the middle for a clutch touchdown. The perfect extra point from Cornish knotted the score.
Early in the second half, the highlight reel play of the game brought the crowd to its feet. While enjoying excellent protection from interior linemen Bynum, De’andre Jones, and Jaysen Triunfer, and despite brief difficulty in gathering in the hike from the shotgun, Babbs, from his own 30, looked downfield and targeted Ya’zier Francis on a crossing pattern. In a dramatic one-on-one duel at midfield, the junior wide receiver momentarily stepped forward to snatch the pigskin and also, incredibly, managed to shake off his defender. The subsequent footrace was no contest as Francis jetted in for the scintillating score.
As the final two quarters wore on, the Knights began to regain control at both the offensive and defensive lines. When the Bulldogs resorted to the pass, Cornish and strong safety Wisam Salemah were there with blanket coverage. In addition, from his defensive tackle position, Paterson’s Triunfer began to dominate in the trenches.
Midway through the third frame, the Bulldogs scored their last touchdown of the contest but Triunfer blocked the extra point. The 14-13 Knights’ lead was the closest that PCTI would come. Late in the game, a Kennedy interception and touchdown return provided icing on the cake for the impressive victory.
After the fourth quarter horn sounded, Clyburn reflected on finally snatching victory from the Bulldogs.
“This is our first time beating Passaic Tech,” Clyburn stated.
“Last year we lost 7-0. I’ve thought about that for a whole year. This was a great win.”
Connish described his touchdown catch and run.
“I was split left and ran straight down the field,” Cornish elaborated. “Then, I cut across, looked up, and saw the ball. It was a little underthrown, so I came back a little. The defender grabbed my arm but I was able to shake loose and start to run.”
The Knights’ next contest is Saturday, October 13, against Hackensack at Paterson’s Bauerle Field with kickoff at 1:00 p.m.