ISELIN – When your defense is on the field for nearly 10 minutes to open the game, things don’t look good. But the John F. Kennedy Mustangs defense bent but didn’t break, forcingPerth Amboy to kick a field goal after holding the ball for the first 9:49 of play, ending a 13-play, 43 yard drive.
On the ensuing possession, Anthony Roberts ran four yards to pay dirt, the first of three touchdown runs for the junior tailback, and J.F. Kennedy was off and running to a 21-13 victory Friday night. Roberts finished the game with 194 yards on 27 carries and those three touchdowns, leading a Mustangs offense that finished with 239 yards on the evening.
But stopping Perth Amboy on that opening drive and the Panthers’ third possession, an 8-play, 48 yard drive that also ended with a Chris Bermeo field goal was the turning point of the game, according to J.F. Kennedy head coach Rich Nyers.
“It was huge for us,” Nyers said. “We were playing some solid defense and we had a few penalties that hurt us, but the kids showed a lot of character to hold them to a field goal there. And to do the same thing on the next long drive was awesome. They held the ball for a long time and only came away with six points.”
From there, it was all about Roberts, who was the focal point of the J.F. Kennedy offense all night long. The tailback had six carries on the Mustangs’ first touchdown drive and nine of the final 11 runs to close the ballgame, with Perth Amboy only eight points down. J.F. Kennedy took over with 6:12 to play after the Panthers had sliced the lead to 21-13, and promptly turned it over to Roberts, who picked up the game-clinching first downs with gaggles of Perth Amboy defenders draped all over him.
Nyers credits the offensive line for a lot of the success running the ball tonight, but couldn’t do so without giving his star due praise.
“Anthony Roberts is an amazing tailback, no doubt about it,” Nyers said. “But the line did it tonight: Tom Patten, Louis Santa Maria, Brian Teehan, Taquari Ellis Webb and Jimmy Smith, along with fullback Mike Hogan just blocked phenomenally and when Roberts sees the holes, he runs it really well.”
In the opening 24 minutes, Perth Amboy held the ball for 17:25, while J.F. Kennedy had it for just 6:35, but in the second half, the hosts milked just enough out of the clock to keep the Panthers at bay. Both of J.F. Kennedy’s second half touchdowns came on short fields, set up by poor punts by the Perth Amboy kicking game.
Darius Pearson rushed for 43 yards on 14 and scored Perth Amboy’s touchdown with a four-yard run in the third quarter.