PATERSON, NJ- A highlight reel worthy throw-throw-catch play midway through the third quarter of a Friday home game solidified the JFK Knights’ second win of the season over the visiting Highwaymen of Teaneck.
The game, the Knights' first since last week’s emotionally charged clash with Clifton got off to an inauspicious start when the visitors returned the opening kick-off for a touchdown and early lead.
To Kennedy’s credit, the initial shock wore off quickly for JFK Coach Ron Jackson and his faithful followers who kept their cool and evened the score later in the half with a 25-yard scoring strike from quarterback Evelon Babbs to Ya’zier Francis
Stellar defensive play by the Knights’ senior outside linebacker Darien Davis and a quarterback sack by junior defensive end Caleb Ruffin ensured that Teaneck’s final offensive possession of the first half garnered no fruit.
Up by a score of 13-7, the second half kickoff went to Kennedy. With 1st and 10 from their own 45, the Knights’ Jayden Cornish snatched a flair pass in the left flat, employed a spin move, and eluded several tacklers for a 12-yard gain. However, an illegal block in the back set JFK back 10 yards. Not to be denied, another completion to Cornish resulted in significant yardage gained. However, the promising drive was stymied by a Highwaymen interception at the 10-yard line.
Kennedy’s defense, again, stepped up to the plate with senior strong safety Wisam Salameh patrolling the secondary and cornerback Kyle
Readus making key tackles from his cornerback position.
Now midway through the third quarter, the Knights put on a show that produced not only a touchdown, but also the breathing room they'd need to clinch victory from their stubborn opponents.
It started with a line-drive Teaneck punt returned by JFK’s Ya’zier Francis to the kicking team's 41-yard line. After leading the offense back on the field, Babbs, from the shotgun, received a perfect hike from senior center Aaron Belfield and proceeded to toss a behind-the-line screen pass to fellow senior Shaqir Herbert.
Herbert scrambled to elude a ferocious Teaneck rush, however, rather than head upfield, Herbert stopped on a dime and fired a long bomb which spiraled over the Teaneck goal line in the direction Kennedy’s Francis and Shafear Johnson who had lined up as receivers on the play.
“I was split wide left and headed straight for the end zone,” Francis told TAPinto Paterson after the game.
“I also ran down field but crossed over toward the left corner of the end zone,” Johnson added.
As the ball descended, fans from both sides collectively held their breaths. Sandwiched in between the two JFK receivers was a single Teaneck defender. The trio simultaneously leapt high in the air.
“After I got away from the pass rush, I looked up and saw Ya’zeir downfield,” Herbert said of his miraculous aerial.
“When I jumped up for the pass, the defender was pulling me down and ball tipped off me,” Francis explained.
“When I went up, I never saw Ya’zier,” Johnson said. “I just kept my eyes on the ball.”
When the dust had settled, all three players had crashed to the turf, with Johnson incredibly hanging on to the ball.
The referee signaled touchdown as Paterson fans broke into pandemonium.
The additions points on the scoreboard would prove to be all that JFK would need as the Knights’ defensive interior of Emmanuell Briggs, Triunfer, sophomore Reylin Dicent, and ends Ruffin and Herbert, kept the Teaneck offense at bay, including a nifty interception by junior defensive back Andre Gardner.
A short TD run for Teaneck towards the end of the matchup would be too little, too late, and the home team would march on to their second victory of the season with a score of 19-12.
Following the game Emmanuel Briggs, with two sacks and three tackles in his first game with the varsity squad predicted that while JFK played well “we can still play better."
“My teammates are respectful, encouraging, and role models,” he continued.
The Knights travel to Jersey City to face Henry Snyder High School for their next game on Friday.