LYNDHURST, NJ- In a postgame speech to his players, all of whom had taken a knee, JFK’s Head Coach Ron Jackson voiced a simple request.
“Will every senior stand up?” the seasoned mentor ask. In a moving moment of victory and pride, each and every one did so.
“You are going to go out legendary,” Jackson exclaimed.
Not only did the Knights turn in a convincing romp over Bergen Tech by a landslide score of 42-6, Jackson’s faithful followers also earned a spot in the postseason New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.
Kennedy will play their final regular season contest in the annual Thanksgiving Day battle against crosstown rival Eastside High School before preparing for playoff competition.
The young gridders were also challenged by JFK Assistant Coach Randy Walker.
“Our goal now is to win the next two games,” Walker said. “Season records no longer matter. We’re where we want to be.”
Especially moved was 35-year coaching veteran, Walter Munk, who coaches the Knights’ freshman squad.
“My first year here at Kennedy, I had these seniors,” Munk said, while choking back tears. “They mean a lot to me.”
Indeed, Kennedy’s 5-3 record is all the more remarkable considering the Knights’ three losses have been by a total of eight points.
In the Thursday night contest, held at Riverside Park field in Lyndhurst, Kennedy built a 30-0 halftime lead and coasted to victory.
Jamier Wright-Collins continued his stellar play on both offense and defense. The senior wide receiver/running back/outside linebacker turned in two early scores. The first was off an interception and 40- yard sprint for a touchdown. The second 6-pointer came on a 70-yard run-explosion.
Next in the touchdown parade was running back Calvin Clyburn.
Midway through the first half, the dynamic senior ground out ten tough yards in the red zone to underscore Kennedy’s lead.
“Our quarterback Babbs was in the shotgun,” Clyburn said of the play, after the game. “I started to run off right tackle and then cut up field and broke a couple of tackles.”
Not to be outdone, junior wide receiver Shafear Johnson continued the scoring spree with a 37-yard TD reception.
“I was split left and my assignment was to run a fly pattern,” Johnson explained. “I beat the defender. He didn’t touch me after I caught the ball.”
Babbs, a senior, added to his season long, video highlight worthy runs with a 20-yard score of his own while Ya’zeir Frazier, Kennedy’s fleet-footed and dependable senior wide receiver, also contributed a touchdown.
In post-game interview, Kennedy players expressed high expectations for the remainder of the season.
“I remember the tragic feeling I had last year when we missed the playoffs by only a few points,” Wright-Collins shared. “Tonight, I feel great.”
Clyburn said the victory helped take away the sting of the recent three-point loss to Ridgewood.
“Last week was heartbreaking,” Clyburn stated. “But tonight we rebounded and came back. I want to let everyone know that we’re coming.”
Johnson’s touchdown was his second of the season. The first was a 45-yard reception against Teaneck.
“I’m looking forward to playing Eastside on Thanksgiving,” Johnson declared. “We’re looking to pick up a win.”
“We were up by 30 at halftime,” Francis concluded. “It was a good feeling after what happened last week.”
The Kennedy-Eastside game will be played at Paterson’s Bauerle Field on Wednesday, November 21, at 6:00 p.m. For the first time in the 94- year series the game will not be played on Thanksgiving Day but on the day before.