For the third time in as many years, Kennedy’s football team thrived under the lights in its homecoming game.
The Cougars scored on defense, offense, and special teams last Friday night on the way to knocking off South Side, 17-0, in a Conference II game played before a bleacher-filled crowd. It was the first career coaching win for Tim Dolan, who praised Kennedy’s resiliency after two tough losses out of the gate. Both teams are 1-2.
“It feels great,” Dolan said. “The kids fed off the crowd and played with a lot of energy and intensity. We weren’t back on our heels like we were in the first two games. We were more aggressive.”
For the Cyclones, who were coming off a solid 21-point victory over Westbury, the outcome was disappointing. “We came in feeling confident, but it was a sloppy game all around,” South Side head coach Phil Onesto said.
It was scoreless until less than three minutes remained in the first half. That’s when senior Timothy Kutil made the most of a second chance. On South Side’s previous possession, Kutil just missed picking off a pass with an open field in front of him. When opportunity knocked again, he gave the Cougars a 6-0 lead with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“The first one hit me in the helmet,” said Kutil, who set up John Austin-Emory’s third-quarter touchdown with a 37-yard catch off a screen. “I jumped the route, but I missed it. I was really glad another opportunity came. The guys did a great job blocking after I caught it.”
Dolan said Kutil’s play was the biggest for the defense so far in 2013. “Nothing gives a team more momentum than a pick-six,” he said. “It was a spark we needed.”
The Cyclones drove into Kennedy territory twice in the opening half but failed to come away with points. Junior Luke Scaduto, who had 90 yards rushing, recovered a fumble at the Cougars 20-yard line with 3:53 remaining in the first quarter to put the offense in striking range. But problems snapping the ball led to a 12-yard loss on second down and a botched field-goal try on fourth down to end the threat.
South Side began its next possession at the Kennedy 42 following a long punt return by senior Michael Nunziato, but a fumble on a fourth-and-3 attempt to start the second quarter was recovered by Cougars junior Jesse LoPalo.
The only offensive scoring drive of the night occurred in the second half. Behind Emory and the blocking of linemen Aydin Kessler, Dominic Albi and Andrew Rodriguez, the Cougars marched 83 yards on nine plays and reached the end zone with 48 seconds left in the third quarter. Emory scored from two yards out, and senior quarterback Michael Kaplan found senior Tom Ferner for the 2-point conversion to make it 14-0.
A 27-yard field goal from senior Connor Longo with 2:36 to go sealed the outcome.
“Bad things are going to happen sometimes,” Dolan said. “Tonight we cleaned up some of our mistakes and played pretty good football.”