Coney Island has long been a destination for a good time. Whether it’s a stroll on the famed boardwalk, downing a dog or three at the original Nathan’s, or braving a ride on the iconic Cyclone, Coney Island is a little slice of New York where people can’t help but have a good time.
Just don’t count the Kennedy Knights among those people.
Last November, the Knights endured the long bus trip to Coney for a Public School Athletic League football playoff contest against Lincoln High School. That game ended in a 48-point loss that ended Kennedy’s season.
So last Friday night, the Knights returned to Coney to face Lincoln in hopes of exacting a little revenge. This time it was an unbeaten Kennedy outfit going against Lincoln, a perennial PSAL power. A victory here and the Knights could announce to the PSAL its program rebuild was well ahead of schedule.
A victory here and there might be a victory lap on the boardwalk. Perhaps a celebratory team gorging at Nathan’s.
But unfortunately for Kennedy, the result was another long, quiet bus ride home as the Railsplitters erupted for 38 first-half points, rolling to a 50-28 victory. Kennedy coach Alex Vega did not see this result coming.
“We haven’t seen that kind of speed in a long time,” Vega said. “I think our guys were caught a little off guard by their speed. Once we adjusted, we kind of settled in a bit, but by then, it was already too late.”
Lincoln led 38-6 at the half, and it proved to be way too big a hole for the Knights to dig themselves out of. Despite their dire halftime circumstances, the Knights did not quit as their high-caliber ground game came around in the second half.
The backfield quartet of Chris Boadi, Karamogo Sylla, Emmanuel Nkwocha and David Obeng-Agyapong combined for 323 rushing yards and three touchdowns. None of that came as a surprise to Vega, who believes he has perhaps the top backfield in the PSAL this season.
“We ran for over 300 yards against them,” Vega said. “Our running backs are good, man. As I’ve said before, our backs could play for anybody, any team.”
Nkwocha was tops for Kennedy with 107 rushing yards, barely edging out Sylla’s 105. Boadi led the team with two of the Knights’ three rushing touchdowns.
But while Kennedy’s offensive output was not a shock, what was stunning was the play of Kennedy’s normally stout defense.
The Knights came into the game toting a 4-0 record thanks largely to a relentless and suffocating defensive unit that had allowed only 28 points through its first four contests. But Lincoln’s offense eclipsed that total in just one half.
The main culprits were quarterback Jahzair Hubbard and running back Israel Abanikanda. Hubbard completed 8-of-12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, while Abanikanda galloped for 128 yards and a pair of scores. Abanikanda also had a touchdown reception, as did Quincy McDuffie and Randy Peters, to pace Lincoln.
“On defense, we just couldn’t stop them. That was the issue,” Vega said. “But we also had some miscues on special teams, so all of that combined added up to their 50 points.”
After the game, Vega told his team they were now at a crossroads. They could learn from this loss and move on from it, or it could linger and cost the Knights what still could be a very rewarding season.
“We’re at the midpoint of the season” the coach told the players. “So how we respond to what happened to us on Friday night will pretty much dictate how the rest of the season is going to go.”
Vega pointed to a game Oct. 25 versus powerhouse Curtis High School as the next time his Knights will face a team the caliber of Lincoln.
“We still have to play Curtis on the road in a couple of weeks, which will probably be the next time we see this type of speed again,” Vega said. “That’s not to say New Dorp or Wagner (Kennedy’s next two opponents) aren’t going to have explosive athletes. They just won’t have as many of them.”
Vega spent time over the weekend apple picking with the family in order to take his mind off the game. But once the weekend was done, it was all about turning the page, getting ready for New Dorp.
“I’m looking forward to Friday night to see how we bounce back,” Vega said. “I want to see how we respond.”