Coming off two impressive victories over New Utrecht and Canarsie, the Kennedy Knights braced for their stiffest test of the season, entertaining Erasmus Hall out of Brooklyn last Saturday.
The contest would be an indicator of just how good this young Kennedy team is, and if they are truly ready to run with the big dogs in the Public School Athletic League.
What the Knights learned, however, is that they still have a ways to go. Erasmus proved its dominance in the PSAL, blanking Kennedy 34-0 on its own turf.
Looking to snap a two-year losing streak in the PSAL city title game against Curtis High of Staten Island, the Dutchmen have hit the ground running with a comfortable 3-1 record so far this season.
For Kennedy, however, the rebuilding of a once-dominant program continues as the Knights slipped to 2-2 on the year. Now under the leadership of alum Alex Vega, the Knights are focusing on a return trip to their once victorious ways.
But it will take time.
“We have a long way to go, and I knew that when I took over the program,” Vega said. “These are the types of games that I came back to coach. We used to be just like Erasmus Hall, as far as other teams coming in and trying to give us their best shot.”
Despite the lopsided loss, there were lessons to be learned.
“We just keep fighting,” said Franklyn Garcia, Kennedy’s senior quarterback. “Even though we were down, we just kept fighting and we didn’t give up. We were just trying to put points on the board, and unfortunately we couldn’t. But we’re going to use this for the future and keep driving and getting better.”
Garcia struggled to gain yards in the air during the contest, completing 8-of-11 passes for just 79 yards and two interceptions. But those two miscues proved even more costly when they were each returned for touchdowns by the Dutchmen.
Following the loss, Garcia commented on Erasmus’ tight defensive coverage.
“Playing against a team like Erasmus makes us all better,” Garcia said. “Any time you go against coverage like that, you just get better. In practice we just have to keep working and do what we have to do.”
Gary Kennedy, a senior running back for the Knights, expressed the need for some house cleaning.
“We have to clean up the little things,” said Kennedy, who rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries. “Erasmus Hall played good defense. They’re a tough team, one of the top-tier teams. This was a challenge, but we never gave up and just kept fighting.
“We just couldn’t put up points today.”
Youth is Kennedy’s current kryptonite.
“Right now we’re just a little too young in certain spots,” Vega said. “Understanding the level of intensity that it takes to beat a team with so many athletes comes with time.”
Still, the coach looks forward to watching his program develop mentally and athletically over the next couple of years.
“I don’t think (Erasmus Hall) is better than us, per se,” Vega said. “They just made critical plays when they needed to. In two or three years, my goal is to beat and compete with teams like that.”
The Knights are quickly putting this loss in their rearview mirror as their Super Bowl is right around the corner. Kennedy is preparing for its matchup against Dewitt Clinton on Oct. 5, with kickoff at 4 p.m. Only then will this latest Battle of the Bronx be in session.
“We’re trying to win the Bronx. That’s one of our goals,” Vega said. “We’re trying to be the best team in the Bronx. It starts this week, and being that (Clinton) is the closest school to us, all the kids know each other. So it’s going to be intense next week.”
Clinton comes into the game 0-4, while the Knights sit at .500. But you can put the records aside as this game is about ownership of the borough.
“Clinton is our biggest rival, the game determines who runs the Bronx,” Garcia said. “In practice we’ll go hard all week as we just try our best to beat Clinton every year.”
Gary Kennedy — and Kennedy as a whole — will be ready.
“That’s the game, the game of all games,” Kennedy said. “We gotta come out and get the ‘W.’”