Andy Lancberg knows his Kennedy football team has talent despite losing a large contingent of seniors from last season. He’s just not sure what that is going to mean on the field because of lack of experience. It has him continually asks his players: “Who are we?”
“That’s my saying,” Lancberg said. “Or ‘What are we going to be?’”
The Knights plan on being one of the PSAL’s elite teams again after going 7-4 and winning a playoff game for the first time in Lancberg’s first four years at the school. They understand it won’t be easy to replicate that success with the graduation of star quarterback Anthony Cruz, running backs Caine Caldwell and Demetrius Wade and key pieces in the secondary. That isn’t going to be make then scale back their goals however. The Knights opened the season with a 26-20 victory over Jefferson.
“I don’t feel like we are a one hit wonder,” Lancberg said. “I feel like we are a year in and year out playoff contender. We are a team who looks to win city championship year in and year out. We don’t come in here hoping to do good things. We expect to do good things.”
There are plenty of reasons to believe that starting on offense. The Knights have high hopes for sophomore quarterback P.J. Franklyn, who battled with senior Rasheed Pierre for the job. Pierre, the team’s senior captain, is the squad’s most versatile player. He is the Knights standout linebacker and moves to running back if he does not take home the quarterback job.
“Rasheed is a hard runner and a hard hitter,” senior lineman Tyshawn Boykin said. “He is going to improve this team a lot.”
One player Kennedy expects to take a big step forward is wide receiver Jaire Blackwell. He had six catches for 56 yards last year, but will be asked to harness that big play ability on a more consistent basis now. Junior Noel Luciano will also aide in the running game.
They all have the luxury of working behind am experienced offensive line led by Boykin, three-year starter Charlie Garcia along with Eric Perez and Emanuel Hans. They will be asked to play both ways. The closing of John F. Kennedy high school as part of the campus has left the Knights with just 34 players, 14 less than a year ago. Kennedy’s front won’t be a big as is was last season, but the players feel there is no reason it can’t be as effective.
“It’s about speed and aggressiveness,” Garcia said.
Damien Diaz will join Pierre at linebacker, but Kennedy’s biggest questions marks lie in the defensive backfield. Lancberg is still waiting to see who distinguishes themselves.
The waiting game is something Kennedy knows it is going to go through this season as players gain needed experience early. The Knights feel by year’s end the program will be sitting exactly where it belongs amongst the top team in the PSAL and in position to make a run at a city title.
“I feel like we have the potential to go as far as we want to go,” Blackwell said. “To show the potential and show the ability that we have.”