The season ended on a rough note for the J.F. Kennedy football team with a 42-14 loss to Phillipsburg in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV playoffs on Friday night.
As they walked into the locker room at halftime trailing Phillipsburg 42-6, Kennedy head coach Andrew Maurizio had one message for his team.
“At halftime I told them ‘forget about what happens at the end of this game,’ ” said Maurizio. “You have to ask yourself what do you want to say about what you give to your buddies.”
It was a game that was rarely in question, but the Mustangs refused to give up with a strong effort until the final whistle.
Senior running back Anthony Roberts, who finished the game with 18 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns, fought back tears as he talked about his team’s effort with the game out of reach.
“This is what we do,” said Roberts. “That’s what we do at Kennedy, we never give up and we just keep playing until the last snap.”
The game started at a very fast pace, with both teams scoring on their first possessions. Phillipsburg opened the scoring when Taji Lowe scampered in from one yard out.
The Mustangs answered right back, as Roberts took the ball and ran it 58 yards to the Stateliners’ 8-yard line. Roberts finished the job, running the ball in on the next play for Kennedy’s first points of the game.
From then on, the Mustangs struggled to get anything moving offensively, and the defense struggled to stop a high-powered Phillipsburg offense.
“From day one we came into this season with high expectations,” said Maurizio. “We got blown out by Colonia and I told them we just had to keep fighting … we continued to grow throughout the season and we realized you can’t keep looking at the scoreboard … you just have to keep fighting.”
Despite the loss, the Mustangs still have high expectations for themselves. While the end result isn’t what they wanted, they will look to come back next season better than ever to try and capture the elusive state championship.
“We’re going to get together on Monday and talk about the season,” said Maurizio. “We just need to prepare for next season and get better. We have to stay hungry and stay focused and if Phillipsburg is the best team in the state we have to be able to match them.”
P – Lowe 1 run (O’Dowd kick)
J – Roberts 8 run (kick failed)
P – Lowe 63 pass from Troxell (O’Dowd kick)
P – Maso 38 run (O’Dowd kick)
P – Maso 38 run (O’Dowd kick)
P – Maso 74 pass from Troxell (O’Dowd kick)
P – Guarino 8 pass from Troxell (O’Dowd kick)
J – Roberts 3 run (Roberts run)
RUSHING: J – Roberts 18-134, Williams 11-76, Young 5-27, Allen 3-17, Wood 2-3, Flowers 1-15; P – Maso 13-100, Galuppo 4-12, Weisel 2-0, Armstrong 2-(-1), Conrad 2-(-12), Lowe 1-4.
PASSING: J – Buttitta 4-13-0-45, Roberts 0-1-0-0; P – Troxell 9-12-3-236, Conrad 1-2-0-32.
RECEIVING: J – Young 2-35, Flowers 1-9, Roberts 1-1; P – Guarino 2-55, Conlon 2-21, Trent 2-14, Maso 1-74, Lowe 1-63, Romero 1-32, Custodio 1-9.