Kennett begins season with impressive win over Oxford
● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Blue Demons started the 2019 campaign the same way they finished the 2018 season—impressively.
Quarterback Sam Forte threw three touchdowns during a dazzling second quarter and the Kennett defense had some very strong moments in a 36-14 win over Oxford last Friday night.
The game was much more competitive than the final score might indicate: Oxford was about one foot short of scoring a third quarter touchdown that would have made it a one-score game. Both Ches-Mont League teams enter Week Two with reasons to be happy about their performances in the first game—and with things to work on as the season progresses.
Kennett jumped out to a 3-0 lead early on, and then Forte led the Blue Demons on three scoring drives over the next four possessions.
While Forte’s running and passing skills were on full display, Kennett’s offensive game plan utilized all its weapons—primarily top running back Garrett Cox and receivers Buzzy Hertz and Kalen Frazier. On the first drive of the second quarter, Frazier turned in a nice catch-and-run to move the Blue Demons deep into Oxford territory. Two plays later, Forte rolled out to his left, scrambled back to his right, and tossed a nice touch pass to Hertz for a touchdown. The quarterback’s ability to extend plays made it very difficult for the Oxford defense throughout the game.
With the Kennett defense providing great starting field position, Forte and the offense capitalized with two more scoring drives in the second quarter. Forte connected with Frazier on a scoring strike with 2:21 left to play in the first half, making it 22-0.
Oxford has developed into one of the toughest teams in the Ches-Mont League under head coach Mike Means, and the team doesn’t quit just because of a slow start to a game. The Hornets got on the scoreboard late in the second quarter when quarterback Thomas Repetz engineered a 61-yard scoring drive just before the half. Repetz completed a nice pass to Jaxxson Chew that turned into a 21-yard gain. A few plays later, Justin Neskie made a nice diving catch to move the ball deep inside Kennett territory. A one-yard gain by running back Dominic Pantalone set up a touchdown run from four yards out by Devan Rueda. That made it 22-6 heading into halftime.
Despite what the scoreboard said, Oxford’s defense had turned in a very solid effort up to this point. Senior defensive end Jay Morton and middle linebacker Jared Vining had both made big plays in key spots, and Neskie made a spectacular play at his cornerback position to break up a pass play early in the second quarter.
The problem for Oxford was that Kennett’s defense was turning in just as many big plays.
As the third quarter got underway, Kennett pushed its lead to 29-6 on the first offensive series of the second half. It was at this point that momentum swung to Oxford in a big way.
Repetz threw one of his best passes of the game when he connected with Chew on a long pass down the left sideline. Oxford’s running attack allowed the team to quickly march deep into Kennett territory, and Rueda scored a touchdown from eight yards out. Oxford went for a two-point conversion, and Repetz rolled out and completed a good touch pass to Neskie in the back of the end zone. It was now 29-14.
Oxford’s defense helped the team continue to build momentum in the third quarter, creating three turnovers, including a nice interception by cornerback Dustin Jones. This gave Oxford better field position to work with. But Kennett’s defense responded to the challenge, keeping the Hornets off the scoreboard following each of the three turnovers. On one drive, Oxford pushed the ball inside the one-yard line, but a costly penalty cost the team five precious yards and they couldn’t score.
According to Means, Oxford’s inability to score from inside the one-yard line was a big turning point in the game.
“We forced those turnovers in the second half, and we just couldn’t capitalize on them,” Means said.
As the game moved to the fourth quarter, Oxford’s defense continued to keep Kennett’s offense in check, but the Hornets couldn’t cut into the lead.
Repetz made some nice throws in the second half, but he was pressured repeatedly. Kennett’s defense tallied five sacks in the second half, and several came at big moments to stall drives.
Kennett added a late touchdown with just over two and a half minutes to play, making it 36-14.
Both teams could take some positives from the season-opener.
For Kennett, the continuing development of Forte as a quarterback will be a major storyline for the 2019 season.
Kennett head coach Lance Frazier said that he thought Forte played well on both sides of the ball against Oxford—and when he was playing quarterback, he was productive as a passer and as a runner.
“He played well tonight,” Frazier said. “We’ve worked with him a lot, and he has really developed. He’s a smart kid. He took the off-season and really worked hard to develop himself as a quarterback. He’s doing a great job of reading defenses, and he’s doing a great job of making plays.”
Cox is a force at running back, and Frazier lauded him for working hard on his speed and strength during the off-season. Cox is working to overcome an injury, but he had a solid night against Oxford.
Another standout for Kennett during the season-opener was Vincent Cresci, a defensive back who returned to the team after taking a year off. Cresci is a very good lacrosse player and a stellar athlete, Frazier said, and the football team benefits from having him on the squad.
Frazier complimented Oxford on how they played.
“Those guys came to play in that game tonight,” he said of the Hornets. “What Coach Means is doing with the quarterback and that offense is great. Their defense really flew to the ball.”
Oxford lost a lot of key contributors from the 2018 team to graduation, so a lot of younger players are stepping into new roles.
The Hornets play Interboro at home on Friday night, Aug. 30, and the 2019 schedule includes games against Downingtown West, Bayard Rustin, Unionville, and Reading.
“Our schedule is really tough and nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Means said. “We have some young players and we’re going to have to grow up fast as a team.”
Means said that he wants his players to focus on being more physical as they prepare for the second game.
“We need to be more physical, especially on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “We need to get back to the basics—blocking and tackling. We’re a physical football team.”
Frazier expressed a similar sentiment for his team. He said that the one thing that champions do every day is work, and that’s what he wants his team to do.
There are plenty of things to work on and improve as Kennett hosts Chichester (0-1) at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
Kennett made the playoffs for the first time in school history during the 2018 season, Frazier’s first as a coach.
This year, Frazier said, the team is looking for a return trip to the playoffs—with an eye toward a home game.
“That would be great for this school and this community,” he said.