After lost year, Kennedy football returns
on September 2, 2010
After a disastrous 2009 season, the Kennedy High Eagles are looking for redemption. For months, the team has been preparing for Friday’s season opener versus El Cerrito, and now players and coaches are brimming with confidence.
“It’s not going to be a game,” Clyde Byrd, the new Varsity Football Coach and JFK Athletic Director, chuckled. “I really feel in my heart that it’s not going to be a game!”
Tough talk from a team that chose to forfeit its season last year after losing its only five games due to injuries and a lack of players, but it’s all part of the team’s — and perhaps the school’s — rebirth.
“There’s a new attitude at Kennedy High School,” said Byrd. The school’s football program, maligned by the previous year’s low numbers and morale, seems primed for a comeback. Byrd, the 20-year coaching veteran, chose Kennedy because, “It’s an area where nobody expects nothing out of it.”
The school board announced last year that it planned to shut down Kennedy High, but Byrd said the school has received enough funding to stay open for two more years. The city council and the West Contra Costa County Unified School District have not finalized the decision, and a city council source told Richmond Confidential that no decision will be made until the end of the month at the earliest.
However, Byrd said the community has already reacted to the news and that enrollment is up as a result.
Byrd and Junior Varsity Coach Mack Carminer have focused much of their attention off the field. The league mandates that students must have a GPA of 2.0 or above to play, and the coaches are doing everything to ensure they don’t lose any players to bad grades.
The students attend tutoring sessions before practice, and the coaches are working with counselors, teachers and parents to keep the players’ grades up.
“These kids needed a spark — the academics was bad,” Byrd said. “We came up with an academic game plan: we didn’t want to lose one kid, academically.”
Students appreciate the difference, said varsity player Ofa Vi, one of two girls on the team. “There’s like 60 some of us this year that are eligible and last year only 20-something that was eligible.”
That enthusiasm is already evident on the sidelines. The number of players doubles last year’s starting roster. Carminer said, “It’s like night and day compared with last year. The commitment and consistency is totally different. They’re buying into it.”
Behind the enthusiasm, grim circumstances hover; one player was conspicuously absent during Wednesday’s practice. The day before, the brother of a sophomore JV player was shot and killed.
“Those are issues we face on a daily basis,” Byrd said.
Despite the adversity, the players and coaches are ready for a fresh start. The JV game begins at 4 p.m., varsity at 7 p.m. at Contra Costa College.
“I think we’re going to go all the way,” Vi said. “This year, we’re coming out strong. I think we’re going to go to state. So if you see us there, holla!”
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Who: Kennedy vs. El Cerrito
When: Friday, September 3, 2010
Where: Contra Costa College
Time: JV @ 4 p.m.; Varsity @ 7 p.m.
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