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Eleven years to knock off rival

Nothing could keep Joaquin DeJesus from the field Friday night.

Not a bruised and swollen right hand. Not trouble breathing from a crushing hit.

The DeWitt Clinton quarterback shook off each minor injury to lead the Governors to their first victory over rival John F. Kennedy, 38-14, in 11 years in the Bronx in PSAL City Championship division action.

“He’s the man – toughest kid we have,” Clinton coach Howard Langley said.

The junior threw touchdown passes to Alanzo Merchant and Joseph Flores, the second of which sealed the back-and-forth battle for borough bragging rights. Anthony Smith and Dominique Warren scored on the ground and Patrick Lindo returned the opening kickoff to pay dirt for the Governors (6-1), who won their fifth straight.

After racing out to a 16-0 lead 6:03 into the first quarter, Clinton saw its lead trimmed to two by halftime, the result of touchdown passes by Denzle Jones to Delvin Hilario and Freddie Gaetan. It was a one-possession game early in the fourth quarter when DeJesus was helped off the field.

First, he had his hand caught in an opposing player’s helmet. Then, after returning, Kennedy defensive tackle Michael Vasquez drilled the quarterback, dragging him down by the neck.

DeJesus sat out one play before he found Flores in the back of the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the Kennedy 7-yard line with 7:08 remaining. Warren capped the scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run.

“My team needed me,” DeJesus said. “I couldn’t let them down. The pain went away.”

Although the two clubs entered the yearly Bronx clash headed in opposite directions – the Governors on the way to the playoffs, the Knights (0-7) still looking for their first win – the victory held special meaning to Clinton’s 19 seniors.

“I’ve been thinking about this game since the offseason,” two-way lineman Oscar Martinez said.

They remembered losing on the same field as sophomores in a 40-19 drubbing. They frequently heard about the one-sided nature of the rivalry, from classmates, family, and friends. It was particularly frustrating riding the Bx1 bus with Kennedy players, listening to the chirping every year, day-in and day-out.

“They have nothing to say now,” Martinez said, “because we just beat them.”

Said middle linebacker Onell Dishmey: “On their home field, it feels even better. We just killed them.”

Beating Kennedy was one of many goals Clinton set for itself at the season’s outset, along with reaching the playoffs and getting past the quarterfinals. The Governors will worry about the playoffs in the coming weeks. They spent Friday night enjoying the victory, celebrating with classmates that had made the trek to Kennedy, partying on their biggest rivals’ home turf.

The fifth-year coach hopes it’s a changing of the guard. That the big-time Pop Warner standouts will start choosing Clinton instead of Kennedy. Friday, for once, the Governors left little doubt which side owned the Bronx.

“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” Langley said.

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