Eagles break eight-year homecoming winless drought
Kennedy football players and coaches sang the Eagles fight song next to the fence at Bloomington Stadium after a 29-21 homecoming game win over Providence Academy Friday.
The Eagles won homecoming for the first time in eight seasons and had its first two-win season since 2014, overcoming a 14-6 halftime deficit by going 97 yards on the opening drive of the second half for a touchdown.
Two promising drives in the first half were cut short by fumbles but coach Kedrick Williams believed the team could turn it around with some tough love.
“We gave the ball away on the first drive,” he said. “Once we became accountable, things changed and that’s the thing we talked about at halftime.
“That’s what I am going to talk to them about on the bus and again during the film session on Monday. We were accountable. ‘I asked you to be accountable for yourself and position.’ It’s a sign we’re mature and growing. The sign of a mature team is the ability to change things at the half and come out and be accountable for our jobs.”
Kennedy senior running back Theo Simmons carried the ball for the majority of the first drive of the second half before Deon Sherwood, a 5-foot-3 150-pound back, tucked in behind a blocker to surge over the final 6-yards for the touchdown.
Simmons ran 43 yards to set up the touchdown, running through the defense before finally being dragged down near the goal line to set up the tying touchdown, setting the tone for the rest of the second half.
After leaving the game briefly due to leg cramps, Kennedy quarterback Avante Monroe won the foot race to the pylon to get the 2-point conversion and tie the game up at 14-14.
Setting the tone for the offense with Simmons pounding the ball at the heart of the defense to move the chains was a key for the second half, until cramps forced him to the sideline twice.
“We always want to get Jake Husting involved but he’s having a heck of a year on defense and would love to get him the ball. But right now, Theo is our horse,” Williams said. “If we can ride Simmons and Monroe, we’re going to be OK. I’m proud of Jesse coming in for the 2-point conversion and senior Trey Madison scoring for the first time this year. It was a team effort and that’s the great thing about this.”
“We played as a team and we had everything clicking,” Husting said, reflecting on the key plays of the game.
The 14-14 score stood through the quarter as the Eagles’ drive stalled on the Providence 10-yard line after they failed to convert on a 4-and-1.
Providence marched the length of the field in over three minutes, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown by sophomore Jacob Meissner to give the visitors a 21-14 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Monroe, who was back under center taking snaps, noticed something about the defense. He switched up the designed bootleg to the opposite side from right to left.
Thanks to a key block at the edge by junior receiver Lavell Miller, Monroe was off on an 80-yard touchdown to pull the Eagles within one point, 21-20 with under seven minutes to play.
Kennedy tried a fake field goal with Falk serving as the holder. He rolled out to his right and tried to complete a 2-point conversion pass to senior captain Jacob Husting who was interfered with on the incompletion.
The foul set up a second attempt at the crucial points and this time Falk lined up under center and kept it on a quarterback keeper to give the home team a 22-21 lead.
Kennedy’s defense helped pin Providence deep inside the red zone, which ultimately turned into a turnover on downs on the Lions’ 2-yard line.
“It’s a team effort,” Williams said of the defense. “Jake, Deon Barber and Marques Monroe, those guys are defensive players and hitters. When they are on their game and coming downhill, it is hard to run on Kennedy High School.”
Madison was given the ball and scored his first touchdown of the season to make it a 29-21 game.
The Eagles defense came up big again to end the game with an interception as junior Amarion Hanspard held on for the interception with just over a minute left to secure the victory.
Despite the wet and cold weather, practice during the always-hectic homecoming week was a productive one for Williams and the team.
“We had a good week of practice,” Williams said. “One of the days we were unfocused and the guys had to understand they needed to get back to focus and that’s one of the good signs of the team changing, the ability to understand we aren’t practicing our best so the next day we came out and gave it our all.”
Kennedy travels to Columbia Heights (2-4) on Friday before hosting Minneapolis Washburn (4-2) on senior night at Bloomington Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 16 to close out the regular season.