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EMPIRE LEAGUE : Sabol Keys Kennedy’s Dramatic Victory

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A week ago, a 99-yard interception return sparked a 42-point run that beat Cypress.

Thursday, the interception return didn’t provide the spark, but simply the difference.

Kennedy’s Garrett Sabol, despite a dislocated shoulder, returned an intercepted pass 91 yards, providing the difference in a 13-7 victory that gave the Fighting Irish the Empire League crown and forced Cypress into a must-win situation next week to reach the playoffs.

The circumstances were eerily similar for the Centurions (2-7, 2-2).

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They were poised to score last week against El Dorado and take a 14-point lead. Instead, El Dorado’s David Myers picked off Nick Vanderwal and went the distance. Cypress never scored again, and El Dorado reeled off six in a row.

Against Kennedy, Cypress trailed, 7-0, but had good field position after Bobby Brito recovered quarterback Tom Haas’ fumble at the Kennedy 34. Three plays later, Vanderwal went deep for Brito.

Instead, Sabol intercepted the pass and returned it 91 yards for a touchdown. He picked up a key block from Kirk Bailey along the way, springing his sweeping, sideline-to-sideline venture. It was his seventh interception of the year, tying a single-season school record by Irish defensive coordinator Ted Canfield (1971); it also leads the county.

Joe Paloney missed the point-after, but the 13-0 lead with 9 minutes 30 seconds left in the first half was plenty for the Kennedy defense.

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Sabol suffered a dislocated right shoulder on “about the fourth play of the game” that prevented him from extending his right arm, he said.

Well, almost prevented him from extending it.

“It was phenomenal,” Kennedy Coach Mitch Olson said. “Under the circumstances--the kid’s arm is hanging to his side, he’s playing both ways and he outran three guys down the sideline who had the angle on him. That was the most amazing thing to me.”

Losing Coach Ted Hovorka, asked afterward about the decisive play, simply muttered “Ugh,” and ended the interview.

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“I didn’t think I was going to catch it because I couldn’t put my arm up,” Sabol said. “But I got some nice blocks from the guys.”

The victory gives Kennedy (8-1, 4-0) its third straight league title.

Cypress can qualify for the playoffs with a victory next week over Century (1-6-1, 0-3). The Centurions outgained Kennedy on offense, 248 yards to 181, but were dogged by 10 penalties for 91 yards. Kennedy had seven penalties for 75 yards.

Kennedy scored on its fifth play from scrimmage, a 41-yard scoring pass from Haas to Tom Hundley (five catches for 80 yards).

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In the third quarter, Cypress took advantage of Hundley’s fumbled punt reception, scoring on the next play--an 11-yard halfback pass from Brito to Ryan Dinley.

Cypress’ last gasp came late in the fourth quarter, when Vanderwal’s pass sailed over the head of Brito on fourth and three at the Kennedy 18.


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