PATERSON, NJ - In a spirited practice less than 48 hours before their contest against Columbia, members of John F. Kennedy’s High School varsity football squad expressed confidence in their ability to compete and succeed this season and in Saturday's home opener.

Head Coach Ron Jackson and his veteran coaching staff hope to improve upon last year’s 4-5 record.  

Following warm-ups including stretches, sprints, and even old-fashioned jumping jacks, players practiced a variety of possible game scenarios including while on offense and defense, going for extra-points, and receiving and delivering kick-offs.  

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After practice, under the lights of Buckley Park’s new state-of-the-art field, a group of seniors commented on their squad’s progress.

Stanley Villalona will toil at both linebacker and fullback, and is eager to take on blocking, running, and receiving responsibilities for the Knights. “I feel like a lot of our young guys already know how to play well,” Villalona stated.  

“I think we’re going to shock the world this year.”

Lining up at both middle linebacker and right offensive guard will be 16-year-old Gus Dustin. At 6’0” the strong player will be part of the starting varsity squad and believes that his team will improve their record this year, recalling that his favorite game last year was against Jersey City’s Snyder High School.

While Justin Ortiz is transfer player after suiting up for Newark’s Weequhaic High School last year at running back and linebacker for the Indians, he already feels accepted by his new teammates. 

“I feel comfortable here and am looking toward a great season,” the player said after having the fact that he can bench press 250 pounds coaxed out of him.

“I’ve learned that in preparation for games, every opposing defense is different,” Isaiah Diaz whom as a football player since 8th grade offers the wisdom and experience of a game worn veteran, said. “I’ve studied films and have seen how the defensive back that plays for Columbia will cover me. As far as offense goes, I don’t mind blocking but I would rather have the ball in my hands.”

Tyrese Johnson will line up at the other wide-out, opposite Diaz. The 16-year old will also take care of punting duties.

“I never thought about punting until a couple of years ago when there was some downtime in practice,” Johnson recounted. “I happened to pick up a football and kick it. Coach Mims saw me and suggested I try out for the punter position.”

As kicker for the Kennedy junior varsity, Johnson said his longest boot was 40 yards.

5’10”, 254 pound, Reylin Dicent will play both left defensive end and left offensive guard for the Knights. He also will kick field goals and kickoffs. The 18-year-old, who said he can bench 275-pounds, added that his field goal range was, “around 35 yards.”

Starting his second season in the key position of quarterback is Christopher Silfa. Silfa made the highlight reels during the 2019 season when he fired off the winning touchdown pass, late in the game, in a nail-biting win against perennial powerhouse Hackensack.

The name of Kyle Readus is familiar with Kennedy fans as the 17-year old has started varsity since the 10th grade.  The 5’9”, 160 pound, tailback promises to provide plenty of dynamic runs this season. He spoke of his biggest disappointment last year.

“Losing to Eastside in the Thanksgiving game felt real bad,” Readus said. “That happened after we lost in the playoffs to Union. This year we will compete in that game and the outcome will be different. It will be something to see.”  

JFK starts their season against Columbia on Saturday at Bauerle Field. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m.


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