The battle is over. As the dust settled on the DeWitt Clinton High School gridiron, the John F. Kennedy Knights found themselves the football kings of the Bronx while the Governors will continue to search for that elusive first win.
Kennedy defeated its Bronx rival 32-13, pushing its record to 3-2 while Clinton fell to 0-5.
Knights head coach Alex Vega knew, despite Clinton’s record, his gridiron squad couldn’t look past this game.
“It’s a rivalry game, so our guys knew that we had to come out and play hard,” Vega said. “We know that every time Kennedy plays Clinton, there are a lot of emotions. Everyone knows each other, so we both tried to put a lot of effort in, and we did that today.”
It was Kennedy’s strong and versatile rushing attack that brought them to victory.
“Our offensive line is getting better and we have three quality running backs,” Vega said. “I knew that we would wear them down and score.”
Gary Kennedy kicked off the scoring for JFK, rushing for a 55-yard touchdown early in the first quarter.
“The offense was working,” Kennedy said. “After practice I knew we were going to come out with good tempo, and I just tried to keep moving my feet and get everything that I could get.”
Chris Boadi then established a two-possession lead in the second quarter with a slicing 10-yard run up the middle for another six.
“Coach called great plays to help us win, and my linemen blocked for me,” Boadi said.
Kennedy — the strong safety, not the school — then flexed his defensive muscles, scooping up the pigskin and scoring on a bad snap 35 yards to the house.
Clinton quickly answered, however, with Jalen Nias capping a 60-yard drive with a bullet to the back of the end zone to Isiah Roberts.
“I wanted to redeem myself after our matchup last year,” Nias said about the 16-14 defeat Clinton suffered last season. “I left a lot of things on the field, and this week I wanted to put points on the board. I believed in my line, and I believed in my wide-outs.”
At halftime, however, the score was 18-6.
Clinton came out of the locker room stronger than before, cutting Kennedy’s lead to just five after Nias launched a 43-yard touchdown pass to Thierno Bah.
Yet Clinton was unable to capitalize on their momentum, allowing Kennedy to find the end zone twice more. The first came on an 8-yard run by Boadi, while the second from fullback George Kennedy, a 65-yard dash that earned him football’s equivalent of a hat-trick on the day.
The win “was very important because last week Erasmus Hall gave us a wake-up call,” Kennedy said. “We picked up the pace and kept fighting. This was our statement game. It showed us that we really do have control over the Bronx.”
For Governors head coach John Applebee, discipline is key.
“A lot of times we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. ”We really need to limit the penalties. They’ve killed us big time. It really comes down to that.”
Effort is not the issue, however.
“The guys fought hard,” Applebee said. “We just need to execute better.”
Nias noticed an important improvement on behalf of his team.
“I was hoping to win this game, it would have been real nice, but my team did the best we could,” he said. “I’m not really mad at this game. I’m sad, but I’m happy that we put out a performance that we’ve been missing for the last four games. I don’t want to lose, but my team put on a show, and I’m happy about that.”
There’s always another game.
“We need to bring the same intensity so that we can win next week,” Nias said. “It’s a loss, but we still have next week and we have to win.”
On Kennedy’s sideline, they still have some celebrating to do.
“It was a rivalry game, so we had to go out there and be stronger than them, and we were,” Boadi said. “We beat Clinton, and we won for the Bronx.”
Kennedy’s next opponent is the 1-4 Truman while Clinton travels to Campus Magnet.