If there was any stage fright, it sure didn’t show.
Such was the case for Carol City quarterback Kewone Jenkins on Thursday night. Just a ninth-grader playing in his first high school game, Jenkins looked something closer to a seasoned veteran senior.
With his nickname being “Lights Out” thanks to his video game prowess playing 2K, Jenkins took his Chiefs offense 70 yards in just three plays to open the game, firing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Raheem Rainey. Jenkins wound up completing 10-of-13 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns — in the first half — to lead Carol City past neighborhood rival Norland 21-14 in a kickoff classic at Traz Powell Stadium.
Coined the Miami Gardens Bowl, Miami Gardens mayor Oliver Gibson handed out the big crystal trophy to the Chiefs after the game as they will hold it for another year.
“It was just a matter of trusting my O-line and my receivers out there tonight,” said Jenkins, who transferred over as an eighth-grader a season ago at Mater Academy and threw just six passes (completing three) in the second half as the Chiefs offense went a little more conservative. “I really wasn’t that nervous, that’s just not the way I am. It was just like practice.”
It also was a successful debut for new Chiefs interim head coach Josh Taylor, who took over the reins of the Carol City program a few weeks ago when Benedict Hyppolite left to join Tim “Ice” Harris’ staff as the offensive coordinator at Florida Memorial University.
“If you know the kid, if you ever talk to him, you see the enthusiasm and energy he brings to this team is really amazing,” said Taylor, who spent the past four seasons coaching under Hyppolite and Aubrey Hill, including the 2016 state-title season. “Not only is he a smart kid but his poise is incredible. You would’ve thought he was a fifth-year senior watching him out there tonight.”
After Jenkins threw an interception in the red zone on his team’s ensuing drive, his only glaring mistake of the night, he then led his team on a nine-play, 90-yard drive early in the second quarter.
The payoff came when, on fourth-and-5 at the Norland 35, he found Earl Pope 10 yards downfield for a first down. But Pope did more than just catch the ball as he juked two Viking defenders and sprinted to the end zone to make it 14-0 with 7:10 left in the second quarter.
The Jenkins-Pope combination wasn’t done.
Just 2:30 before halftime, Jenkins dropped back and fired a perfect dart down the middle and hit Pope in stride as he split two Vikings defenders and took off for a 70-yard touchdown play.
Norland, which had struggled on offense up to that point, then put together a quick scoring drive thanks to a 45-yard run up the middle by K’Shawn Joseph to the Carol City 6. Two plays later, quarterback Jaden Williams, who transferred over from Northwestern after serving as the Bulls backup quarterback last year, fired a 6-yard touchdown pass to Charles Roberts with 21 seconds left in the half to make it 21-7 at the half.
Norland hung tough in the second half and made it a one score game when the Vikings took advantage of a Carol City fumble deep in its own territory when O.T. Dulcio scored from a yard out with 7:20 remaining to cut the deficit to seven.
But the Chiefs defense, which harassed Williams all night long sacking him six times two of those sacks and a fumble recovery by defensive end A.J. Harris, got one last fourth-down sack at midfield with 1:30 left to lock things up.
“Yeah it was only a kickoff classic and technically didn’t count but this was big for the community tonight and we recognized that,” Taylor said. “We’ve still got the trophy and that feels great, but we still have a lot of things to clean up because we were far from perfect tonight.”