WAYNE- Controversy, penalties, fights, missed opportunities, heartbreak. JFK faced all of that on Friday night in a 7-0 loss to Passaic Tech. With the loss JFK is eliminated them from the playoffs.
The biggest call of the game happened with 6:20 remaining. JFK had the ball at their own 31-yard line and it was 3rd and 10. They were trailing 7-0 and had struggled all game to get their passing game going. Then, quarterback Evelon Babbs was able to execute a middle screen pass to wide receiver Calvin Clyburn for a 25-yard gain. But the confidence boost for JFK didn’t last long as the play was called back for an illegal man down field and the Knights moved back to 3rd and long.
“There were a lot of questionable things that went on tonight,” said JFK Head Coach Ron Jackson. “All I ask is for consistency amongst the officials from game to game.”
Jackson also questioned events that took place with 7:23 to go in the third quarter. JFK cornerback Andre Gardner just came down with an interception and returned the ball to Passaic Tech’s 38-yard line. He got tackled near JFK’s sideline and after the play, a couple of Passaic Tech players appeared to initiate some extracurricular pushing and shoving. This caused several other Bulldogs players to come from their sideline to get involved in the fight. Both sides were called for personal foul penalties that offset.
“They (Passaic Tech) got free passes and it’s not right,” noted Jackson. “They threw punches on our sideline. If a couple of those kids got ejected like it was supposed to be, that could’ve made a difference.”
Following the game Jackson suggested referees have a history of treating JFK more harshly, evidenced again by the lack of ejections following Passaic Tech’s incursion into JFK’s sideline.
“It was golden boy treatment,” said Jackson. “If my kids ran over on Tech’s sideline and started something, I can’t imagine what they (the conference) would call my kids. It’s just the stigma. I’ll always be the black sheep of this league.”
If that wasn’t enough, there were two more penalties that really hurt JFK. The first was a facemask penalty on Passaic Tech’s opening drive against JFK. The Bulldogs drove all the way to the Knights’ 13-yard line and after the facemask penalty, had 1st and 3 at the 6-yard line. Passaic Tech converted for 1st and goal at the 3-yard line. The Bulldogs ran the ball three times with JFK shutting them down. But then, running back Rahzeek Starr converted 4th and goal for a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:28 to go in the first quarter. This would prove to be the only touchdown of the game.
The second penalty occurred three minutes before halftime. Having driven the ball all the way to Passaic Tech’s 18-yard line, JFK was called for a holding penalty that led them back to a 2nd and 17 situation. Then, Babbs appeared to have a miscommunication with his wide receivers, as they don’t look back for the ball and it was delivered into the hands of Passaic Tech linebacker Zyaire White.
Besides penalties, JFK also had missed opportunities. On their opening drive, they went for it on 4th down and 7 on the Bulldogs’ 35-yard line, and missed it with an incomplete pass. Facing the same situation in the third quarter, the team went for their first deep pass attempt of the game, had a jump ball opportunity for wide receiver Ya’zeir Francis, but were unable to complete the pass.
Despite JFK’s defense doing their part to keep them in the game and give their offense opportunities to come back, JFK could not overcome all of the fights, controversial calls, other penalties, and missed chances on 4th down. The team huddled after the game for 15 minutes as they realized they were eliminated from the playoffs.
“On the scoreboard, it doesn’t say how we played,” said Jackson. “We played hard and left it out on the field.”
Friday night was JFK’s regular season finale.
The traditional Thanksgiving game against Eastside will kickoff at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 23.