There was a little hitch in Kennedy’s preparation for its game with Truman last week. College entry tests were scheduled for midweek, and Knights coach Alex Vega found himself short players at practice.
“The SAT was Wednesday, so when we were practicing our offense on Tuesday, a lot of the kids were being tutored,” Vega said. “We didn’t have a lot of guys here, and that kind of showed in the beginning of the game here. We were sloppy on offense. False starts, holding penalties, things like that.”
Fortunately for Kennedy, defensive practice came later in the week, and Vega had his full complement of players.
“They were all here for defensive practice,” Vega said, laughing.
The Knights defense turned in its finest performance of the season, shutting down Truman’s scoring machine, recorded three fumble recoveries and an interception as Kennedy steamrolled the Mustangs 32-0.
“After that sloppy start, we got it together and that’s what I’m proud about,” Vega said. “These guys play hard. There’s no quit in them.”
The game was a scoreless affair late in the first half when the wheels started coming off for Truman and the Knights pounced on the Mustangs’ miscues.
It started when Kennedy’s Rafael Rodriguez recovered his second fumble of the game at the Knights’ 37-yard line with just under three minutes left in the half. Karamogo Sylla then broke off a 48-yard run to reach the Truman 15. From there, all it took were two plays before Gary Kennedy scored on a 14-yard scamper. Kennedy then added the two-point conversion run, and the Knights were up 8-0 with 1:09 remaining.
But Kennedy was just getting started.
The Knights tried an onside kick after the score, and Kennedy’s Bakary Darboe recovered the ball at the Truman 40. A 36-yard pass from quarterback Franklyn Garcia to Jeremie Hernandez had the Knights set up on Truman’s 4-yard line. Two plays later, Chris Boadi found pay dirt on a four-yard run. A Garcia pass to Christophe Beckford on the conversion made it a 16-0 Kennedy lead with 46 seconds to go.
And the rout was on.
Kennedy opened the second half with a 60-yard Hernandez kickoff return for a touchdown, giving the Knights a 24-0 lead just 12 seconds in. And when Quincy Banks intercepted Truman quarterback Julian Aponte and returned it to the Mustang 30 on Truman’s next possession, the Knights capitalized one final time with a 15-yard scoring toss from Garcia to Aboubacar Fofana for a 32-0 win.
Three fumble recoveries, an interception, a special teams touchdown, and a recovered onsides kick. Kennedy checked all the boxes in its trouncing of Truman.
“We work on all that,” Vega said. “It just shows the hard work these young men are putting in week in and week out is paying off. We’re getting better on the defensive side of the ball. We’re tackling better, we’re chasing the ball, and we were able to capitalize on some of the mistakes they made.”
Kennedy’s ability to score 24 points on just 81 seconds of game time took all the fight out of Truman.
“We just pitched a shutout basically,” Gary Kennedy said. “And when we scored all those points I saw that their quarterback was kind of out of it, and then they all started fighting with each other. Then I knew it was over.”
One intriguing aspect of the Knights’ play of late is they seem to be getting more formidable each game.
“Week by week, we’re getting way better,” Sylla said. “You can see it in practice and in games.”
Vega, the former Kennedy standout who returned to resurrect the once-proud program, said his timetable for turning the Knights around may be ahead of schedule.
“In a way, yes,” Vega said. “When I met them in May, when I first walked into the auditorium and I looked into their eyes, I knew we had something here. They were hungry for the tradition that they knew I would bring back because I’m an alum. I knew back then we were going to be OK. I think we still have a long way to go, but I think once we click on all cylinders, we can make some noise in the playoffs.”
Playoffs. Now there’s a word that wasn’t expected to be tossed around at Kennedy this season. But at 4-2 with three games to play — and coming off a forgettable two-win season last year — there is a new sense of optimism surrounding the program.
“I feel we can make the playoffs this year because we’re much bigger and stronger than last year,” Boadi said. “Last year we were 2-7, and now look at us. We’re 4-2.
“We’re just going to bring it every week.”