In an impressive start for the 2018 season, Paterson’s John F. Kennedy High School football squad defeated West Orange by a score of 21-0.
The whitewashing was all the more convincing, considering the visiting Mountaineers came into the contest after knocking off perennial powerhouse Montclair, last week.
“We read in one major newspaper that Montclair was ranked #18 in the state,” Knights’ Head Coach Ron Jackson stated after the victory.
“Another paper picked us to lose by a score of 25-17.”
Both predictions proved to be false prophecies as JFK combined a stifling defense with a smooth and steady offensive attack.
An early Mountaineer drive was squelched via a number of standout defensive efforts. Knights’ senior linebacker, Jahmall Readus, perfectly read a screen pass attempt and nailed the West Orange running back as soon as he caught the ball. Soon thereafter, the Mountaineers’ quarterback, under intense pressure from Paterson’s senior defensive end, Emmanuell Briggs, was sacked by Kennedy outside linebacker, Emmanuel Rivera.
On the Knights’ ensuing offensive possession, senior running back Jayden Cornish bounced off right tackle for seven yards. From the shotgun, JFK quarterback Evelon Babbs was inundated by a furious Mountaineer rush causing the senior signal caller to retreat, elude, and backpedal and more before turning a potential substantial loss of yards into a huge gain when he went over the middle to to find junior running back, Jamier Wright-Collins. However, the Mountaineers’ defense stiffened and the Knights were forced to punt.
The boot bounced to the West Orange eight yard line, pinning the Mountaineers deep in their own territory.
Following a stonewalling of a West Orange sweep left by JFK senior outside linebacker Darien Davis, the first quarter expired with the score knotted at 0-0.
The Mountaineers punted from inside their own 10-yard line. The kick was shanked and went out of bounds at the 36. Kennedy followed by capitalizing on the excellent field position.
Babbs followed a nice run right with his own excursion up the middle for five yards. Wright-Collins, courtesy of a pancake block by right tackle Jaysen Triunfer, picked up eight more. With inches to go for a first down, a no huddle Babbs sneak proved worthy. With 1st and 10 from the Mountaineer 17 yard line, Wright-Collins took the handoff and again followed Triunfer, this time for a score.
The Kennedy kickoff was fumbled but the West Orange return man managed to recover. With 1st and 10 from their own 24, the Mountaineers’ QB, from the shotgun, mishandled the snap which resulted in a huge loss. A pair of complete sideline passes yielded little yardage due to tight coverage and subsequent tackles by Knights’ cornerbacks, Ya’zeir Francis and Shaqir Herbert. Again forced to punt, this time the West Orange kick fared better. The ball rolled to the 49 yard line.
With a first down, Kennedy managed to muster nine yards despite an illegal procedure penalty and a fumble. On 4th down, Wright-Collins banged up the middle for eight yards. Several plays later, Babbs went back to pass. Francis had run a perfect pattern into the right corner of the end zone. However, the West Orange defender’s coverage was more perfect as the ball bounced, incomplete, off the turf. The first half horn sounded with Kennedy clinging to a 7-0 lead.
On the Knights’ first possession of the second stanza and with a 4th and one from their own 41, JFK Head Coach Ron Jackson chose to gamble. The risk paid off as Babbs, from under center, not only gained the 12 inches but squiggled and squirmed through defenders for more. However, the drive stalled, bringing up another punting situation.
The hike to Cornish was short and bounced. In precarious position, the senior valiantly not only managed to pick up the pigskin but also get the kick off in time. Ironically, the punt was caught by a Kennedy player who had run down field. To add to the confusion, West Orange was flagged for a roughing the kicker penalty. After the dust had settled, the bizarre exchange gave the Knights new life and a 1st down at their own 24.
Babbs, from the shotgun, momentarily hesitated, then bolted up field for 15 yards. Two more JFK running plays found the ball at the Mountaineers one yard line. Interior linemen, Charlie Davila, Aron Belfiled, Jeremiah Jones, and Davila did not disappoint as their blocks allowed Babbs to once again make it into the end zone, enabling the Knights to surge ahead, 14-0.
The latter part of the 3rd quarter and final frame unfurled as Wright-Collins was in the right place at the right time for two interceptions. Later, Cornish booted a perfect, coffin-corner punt which trapped West Orange inside their own 5-yard line. This time Jones excelled on the other side of the line. A sack by the 5-11, 280 pound Paterson defensive tackle added to the Mountaineers’ woes. An illegal procedure penalty against West Orange resulted in the ball being placed inside the one yard line. Forced to punt the Mountaineers’ kicker was literally two yards away from the end zone line. The next play was one for any highlight reel, high school, college, or pro.
The hike to the awaiting kicker was no problem. However, Kennedy’s line was. The Mountaineer’s puntsman was crushed in the act of booting. The ball went straight up into the air. However, rather than a JFK safety, a West Orange player wound up catching the pigskin and scampering for 17 yards and a 1st down.
Despite the turn of events, Kennedy, led by Triunfer and Readus, continued to shut down any West Orange offensive efforts. Late in the fourth quarter, the Knights added a short, scoring sneak by Babbs to complete their 21-0 victory.
Following the contest, Knights’ Defensive Coach Donald Davis said his team had “executed well.”
“They did what we thought they could do,” Davis summarized.
JFK Head Coach Ron Jackson echoed his colleague’s sentiments.
“We really stuck to the basics,” Jackson stated, after congratulating his team for a job well done. “One of our scrimmages was canceled. This is the first time we’ve played, besides a scrimmage a few weeks ago. Sometimes simple is better.”
Davila praised his team’s defense but said he and his offensive counterparts were, “a little shaky at first but then we got it together.”
Junior running back Calvin Clyburn, who turned in a fine performance, said he was, “already looking forward to playing Clifton next week.”
The Knights travel to Clifton for their next game on Friday evening, September 14.