The coaches’ office at Kennedy High has become the fashionable place to be. Glad-handing, high-fiving and high living is the mode of the month. Brown and gold are the colors du jour on Friday nights.
It started last week when Kennedy beat Granada Hills for the first time since 1982. Alums, cheerleaders, statkeepers, parents, former NFL players all started dropping by after the game.
Yet it wasn’t always that way. In the third week of the season, when Kennedy was upset by Crenshaw, there was plenty of elbow room available.
“Everybody loves a winner,” Kennedy Coach Bob Francola said. “After Crenshaw, nobody was here.”
It was standing-room-only at Kennedy on Friday, and the Golden Cougars didn’t let their followers down, hammering San Fernando, 37-10, in a West Valley League game.
Playing in its most important game in years, before approximately 4,000 spectators, Kennedy (7-1, 4-0 in league play) made the mammoth plays on both sides of the ball.
Defensive back-receiver Ronnie Gipson personified the assault, scoring on a 60-yard interception return and a 55-yard pass reception.
Kennedy produced big plays aplenty. In fact, the Golden Cougars led at one point, 24-3, although their offense had rolled up exactly three first downs. If any play set the tone, it was Gipson’s scoring reception, which came with 42 seconds left in the first half.
Gipson lined up on the right side, came in motion to the left, then streaked down the sideline. Quarterback Tavarus Logie threw a perfect strike and Gipson beat defensive back Brian Brison for a 17-3 halftime lead.
It was no surprise to Gipson.
“In the passing leagues, I scored three touchdowns on him,” Gipson said of Brison. “It was right over the top. It was called, ‘Pick on Brian.’ ”
Gipson’s pick, i.e., his interception, was the big blow in the second half. San Fernando trailed, 24-10, when Gipson intercepted a pass by backup quarterback Dwight McDuff and raced 60 yards for a touchdown with 10:59 left.
McDuff was relieving starter Leon Blunt, who suffered leg cramps and had to leave the game. It was a battle of attrition all night for San Fernando (7-1, 4-1), which was forced to play without standout tailback LaKarlos Townsend, who has a bruised knee.
“They missed him big-time,” Francola said. “Emotionally, in every way. Every year they build around one guy, and he’s the one.”
Brison, starting in place of Townsend, was held to 27 yards in six carries. Blunt led Tiger ballcarriers with 75 yards in 20 carries.
Kennedy tailback Elijah Raphael rushed for 138 yards in 25 carries and scored on runs of one, four and 36 yards to account for most of the offensive damage. Yet it was the defense, which held San Fernando to 194 yards, that turned the tide.
On San Fernando’s first possession, Blunt was in a shotgun formation when the snap from center sailed over his head. As Blunt scrambled to recover the ball, Bobby Rodgers stripped him of the ball at the 21. Six plays later, Raphael scored on a one-yard run to give Kennedy a 10-0 lead.
On San Fernando’s first possession of the second half, Blunt’s pitch to Brison from the Tiger 44 was wide, and Rodgers recovered again and raced to the six. Two plays later, Raphael scored from four yards for a 24-3 lead.