The Kennedy football team is looking for a permanent field to call home because of safety concerns after an explosion blew out the school’s sixth floor science lab two weeks ago. The team is making due for now with its season very much in jeopardy, as the school will not open in time for the start of classes on Sept. 9.
“We are going to sneak on to any location at Van Cortland Park and do whatever it is we have to do to just get by,” Kennedy coach Andy Lancberg said.
The blast happened on Aug. 20 after the Knights had already traveled to Pennsylvania for camp. A worker caused the incident when he checked a potential gas leak by lighting a match, according to reports. The news was hard to take and left the players and coaches wondering about the status of their school and their season.
“We were shocked,” senior quarterback P.J. Franklyn said. “I didn’t know where we were going to school. We didn’t know if we were still going to have a football team.”
The news also wasn’t pleasant when they returned home. Lancberg said he was told by school administrators that his team would not be allowed on the turf field behind the building because of concerns over the kids safety around the contractors working to repair the damage to the building. The issue had not been resolved as of Tuesday.
The blast also affected the fourth and fifth floors. The building will reportedly not open in time for the start of the school year and students will be sent to other schools.
It’s left Lancberg trying to save his team’s season. He understands the safety concerns and doesn’t mind if all their games are played on the road, but they can’t play if they can’t practice. Lancberg said he has reached out to the Mayor’s office and other local government officials and has contacted Columbia University, Fordham University and high schools Alfred E. Smith, Truman and South Bronx about using their facilities. Kennedy Athletic Director Anton Pena has not retuned requests for comment. Lancberg is hopeful and determined to find a solution.
“I can’t just let this season disappear on me,” he said. “That is just not going to happen.”
He and his staff have made due so far. They found a patch of free grass at Van Cortland Park to practice on last week before scrimmages at Tottenville and at Truman.
“It’s been difficult, confusing, but we are a family. We are still a family and together,” senior lineman Richard Bermudez said. “Wherever we can find a place to practice we go.”
The players have made the best of the bad situation. Running back Anthony Williams said the situation has brought them closer together after a season that saw Kennedy miss the playoffs with a team that had too much negativity around it, according to the players. The captains have stepped up and led since the blast and the group has formed a tight bond.
“We all had to get closer,” Franklyn said. “We stood together and fought through everything.”
The fight may have only just begun, but Kennedy still plans to use its resolved to get back to the postseason no matter what circumstances. They are just waiting to be told they will have that chance.
“I think everyone is trying their best to help us and trying to work behind the scenes to make it right,” Lancberg said. “My fingers are crossed.”