A hard-hitting, thieving defense keyed Kennedy High's 43-0 victory over host Narbonne in a nonleague opener Friday afternoon.
The Golden Cougar offense was far from sharp, but the defense more than made up for it. Kennedy capitalized on all four Narbonne turnovers, three of which were fumbles inside Narbonne's 20-yard line.
"We didn't execute well, but we played pretty solid defense," Kennedy Coach Bob Francola said.
Quarterback Tavarus Logi led Kennedy's offense, completing five of 10 passes for 106 yards, most of which came on touchdowns of 43 and 32 yards to Ronnie Gipson and Cartrail Morgan, respectively.
Kennedy got off to a shaky start on its opening series. On the first play from scrimmage from Kennedy's 26-yard line, Logi needed a timeout to realign his receivers in the correct offensive set. Two plays later, Logi's pitch to tailback Elijah Raphael sailed over the running back's head and netted the Golden Cougars a 13-yard loss.
Kennedy failed to gain a first down on the next two running plays and an 18-yard, out-of-bounds punt gave Narbonne excellent field position at midfield.
But the defense, which yielded just 44 yards to Narbonne, came to the rescue by forcing its first turnover. Anthony Jones, a senior cornerback, picked off a tipped pass on the Gauchos' fourth play of the game and returned it 64 yards for Kennedy's first score.
After the ensuing kickoff, Narbonne started from its six after two consecutive penalties. Two plays later, Jason Makohon, a tackle who had two of Kennedy's three fumble recoveries, collected his first at the three-yard line.
Raphael, who rushed for a game-high 49 yards, then scored the first of his two touchdowns to give Kennedy a 14-0 lead.
Kennedy held a 21-0 lead at halftime after Logi's scoring pass to Gipson, and the game was all but over. Narbonne, which has won just one of its past 41 games, did not get past midfield after its first possession.
Narbonne quarterback Darren Johnson was sacked six times, three by senior linebacker Bobby Rodgers.
But it was the play of inside linebacker Alex Sawatzke, a three-year starter, that Francola deemed "awesome."
Sawatzke's powerful hits were impressive. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior stopped running back Charles Williams at the line of scrimmage and knocked him backward in the first quarter. Williams was hit so hard that he lay on the field for several seconds before retreating to the huddle.
"That's my job--to stand those guys up," Sawatzke said.