Moments before kick-off, John F. Kennedy High School’s (JFK) senior quarterback Anthony Cruz huddled with his teammates and told them, “This is our last home game. I want everybody thinking this is our Super Bowl. Tonight, we are all seniors. We are going to be the kings of the Bronx.”
It was also the final home game for any JFK football team, as the school will close its doors for good at the end of the school year.
True to his word, Cruz and fellow senior Caine Caldwell did plenty on the field to guide a very confident JFK squad to a decisive 40-20 season-ending victory on Friday against archrival DeWitt Clinton.
JFK (6-3) has won four in a row, averaging 41 points a game during that span, and enters the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) city championship playoffs with momentum.
The Knights will host Fort Hamilton on Saturday, Nov. 9 at noon. Clinton fell to a 5-4 record and will travel to Brooklyn next Saturday to play New Utrecht High School.
Friday’s victory was Cruz’s first against Clinton during his four years playing for the Knights.
Caldwell, who scored three touchdowns in the first half to give JFK a 24-0 lead, ran hard all night, gaining 142 yards on 14 carries. “I think given the situation, this was my best game ever,” he said.
Head Coach Andy Lancberg downplayed the hype surrounding the game. “They are a great program,” he said of Clinton. “It’s great to win, but I think it is all important. Every game is important to me. I think a game against Susan Wagner is important. It’s good for us. We can dial in for the playoffs.”
JFK opened the game by forcing Clinton to punt. Using good field position, Cruz hit senior tight end Cristian Perez with a 13-yard pass. Several plays later, Caldwell ran for a six-yard touchdown at the 8:23 mark of the first quarter. Cruz added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Knights lead.
Emotions were high throughout the game, with a Clinton player ejected in the first quarter for allegedly throwing punches. There was a brief skirmish, but order was quickly restored amidst increased security.
While JFK seniors and offensive linemen Mashawn Simmons, Jonathan Abreu and Jacob Rivera dominated the line of scrimmage, Caldwell kept hitting the holes, gaining yards and controlling the clock. Caldwell glided in for a 20-yard touchdown with two minutes left in the first quarter. JFK made the two-point conversion and took a 16-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Cruz, who also plays on defense, picked off Harris for his PSAL-leading ninth interception. Cruz returned the pick 57 yards to the Governors’ 15-yard line. A few plays later, Caldwell scored his third touchdown from 11 yards out and Kennedy went up 24-0.
The Governors’ rallied and gained some momentum late in the first half. Harris came alive, hitting senior wide receiver Ovandre Reynolds with two quick passes to put JKF on their heels.
Harris then connected with Joseph Kennedy on a 76-yard bomb to make the score 24-6 with 2:29 left in the half.
JFK’s offense stalled. Cruz’s punt attempt was blocked by Clinton’s Marcus Kelly and returned to the six-yard-line by Jahkashi Miller, who was then tackled by Cruz.
With less than a minute to go in the half, Clinton’s Junior Valerio scored on the ground. Following a penalty for excessive celebrating against the Governors, Harris hit Joseph Kennedy for an unlikely 18-yard two-point conversion to make it 24-14 at the half.
However, the Knights quickly dashed any hopes for a Clinton comeback when JFK senior running back Demetrius Wade capped off a seven-play, 59-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring run to make it 32-14.
Wade, Cruz and Caine combined for nearly 300 rushing yards.
Unofficially, Cruz finished the regular season with 1,088 rushing yards, placing him in the top five of all PSAL players.
Governors’ quarterback Harris, who was 5-16 in the air, threw his third touchdown pass of the game, a 26-yarder again to Joseph Kennedy that brought Clinton within two scores of JFK with 2:10 left in the quarter.
JFK’s stout defense, which held Clinton to just 50 yards rushing and less than 200 total yards, put the clamps on Harris. The JFK offense kept the ball on the ground as Cruz scored the final touchdown on a 13-yard scamper to clinch the 40-20 victory.
Clinton Coach Howard Langley said, “Every game for us is a lesson. That’s the thing with a young team. I think we lost our composure early.”
By Andy Gross
The Fieldston Eagles soared past the favored Horace Mann Lions to close their season on a high note and win 41-20 at home on Saturday.
“I was not surprised, because my kids had a great week of practice and they really rose to the occasion,” said Fieldston football coach Gus Ornstein.
The Eagles are now 5-3, while Horace Mann is 5-2.
“We knew that they were a good team and [we] would have to play great to beat them, and I was so proud of how my kids came out and played,” Ornstein said. “It was a great way to end the season and send the seniors off.”
Fieldston is not in any league and will not participate in the playoffs.
In other local action, the Riverdale Country School Falcons defeated New Jersey-based Pennington on the road 34-32. The Falcons finished 4-4.