Defense leads Kennedy Catholic past Federal Way in 4A NPSL contest

The Kennedy Catholic High School Lancers are three games into Class 4A North Puget Sound League play.

They’ve given up only three touchdowns.

Kentwood scored twice against them in their league opener two weeks ago. Kennedy Catholic then shut out Decatur last week. Friday night on the road at Federal Way Memorial Stadium, the program again leaned on an impressive defensive effort in a convincing 40-8 win over Federal Way.

Kennedy Catholic forced three Federal Way turnovers on downs, recorded three interceptions, caused and recovered two fumbles in the first half, and a forced a punt in the second half before the Eagles eventually scored with less than five seconds to play.

“The defense is the story of our game,” Kennedy Catholic coach Sheldon Cross said. “They had the ball first-and-goal for it seemed like 20 plays inside the 5. … Our defense played phenomenal.”

The Eagles were quick to drive inside the Lancers’ 5-yard line on the game’s opening drive, but Kennedy Catholic’s defense kept them out of the end zone on four plays to turn the ball over on downs.

Federal Way got another chance two plays later, causing and recovering a fumble at Kennedy Catholic’s 15, but again the Lancers held on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Another Kennedy Catholic fumble gave the Eagles the ball back again three plays later, but this third consecutive red zone trip for Federal Way ended with the first of Dante Saldino’s two interceptions for the Lancers.

Arizona State commit Xe’ree Alexander got the Lancers on the board on the ensuing drive, scoring on a 3-yard run to give Kennedy Catholic a lead it never lost less than two minutes into the second quarter.

He then ended Federal Way’s next possession by causing a fumble that Thomas Bevilacqua recovered. The Lancers capitalized with an eventual 13-yard scoring pass from quarterback Devon Forehand to Isaac Syph.

Alexander tipped a pass near the sideline on Federal Way’s ensuing drive, which Bevilacqua hauled in. Jayshon Calhoun intercepted a pass two plays later to give the Eagles the ball back, but Saldino ended that Federal Way drive with an interception in the end zone not long after.

The two teams then traded turnovers, and Alexander caused, recovered and returned a fumble that set up the Lancers’ third touchdown — a 12-yard pass from Forehand to Mason Hayes — just before halftime.

“It’s watching film and working hard at practice,” Alexander said of the Lancers’ defensive play. “That’s what really helps.”

Kennedy Catholic took a 24-0 lead into the break, and scored on two long possessions in the third and fourth quarters — on a 6-yard run by Alexander and a 3-yard run by Indy Jones — to push the lead to 40 points.

The Eagles scored their only touchdown of the game with 4.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Jay O’Neil found Oregon State commit Andre Jordan Jr., who made a diving catch, for an 8-yard score.

While the Lancers have allowed only 21 points to opponents through their three 4A NPSL games, they’ve scored 136.

After some early miscues Friday, they rolled to 385 yards of total offense, scored the five touchdowns and converted all five two-point tries to run away with the win.

“This was a big win for us,” Cross said. “Our guys just played great.”

STREAK EXTENDED

The three-time defending champion Lancers extended their league winning streak again on Friday night.

Kennedy still hasn’t dropped a league game since a 38-36 loss to Kentwood in Week 8 back in 2018.

“It really feels great to continue that legacy,” Alexander said.

The win over the Eagles extends Kennedy’s active league winning streak to 20 games.

The Lancers will look to continue to string together victories in 4A NPSL play and beyond as the second half of the regular season begins.

“All we’re thinking about right now is keep winning,” Alexander said. “Keep winning and keep working hard.”

PLAY OF THE GAME

Kennedy Catholic’s multiple red zone stops on defense.

Federal Way had a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line on the game’s opening drive, but the Lancers eventually forced a turnover on downs.

Federal Way’s second drive ended the same way, when the Lancers made a goal-line stand after the Eagles at one point had a first-and-goal from the 1.

The Eagles reached the red zone again on their third drive, but Saldino ended it with an interception.

Saldino hauled in another interception in the end zone to end another Eagles drive that had reached the 4-yard line with less than two minutes to play before halftime.

UP NEXT

Kennedy Catholic (4-1) returns home next week to host Kentridge in a 4A NPSL contest Saturday afternoon. Federal Way (3-2) continues league play against Tahoma on Thursday night at home.