KHS football tigers keep playoff hopes alive

C.J. Faircloth advances the ball as Warwick defenders close in. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

For the Kingston High School varsity football team, both the season and their senior night game last weekend are something of a good news/bad news scenario. But for head coach Quintin Johnson, it’s all good.

“Our effort as a team has been fantastic,” said Johnson following the Tigers 14-10 homecoming loss to state-ranked non-league opponent Warwick under the lights at Dietz Stadium on Friday night. “I tell the players not to focus on records or scores of games and focus on one play, one day at a time. I am thrilled with our response — they have played well at times and fantastic at other times. It’s a process that we are going through daily.”

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It was a night where the Kingston defense more than did its part, holding a traditionally electric Wildcats offense to a pair of touchdowns.

The Tigers led 10-7 in the 4th quarter before Warwick quarterback Joe Miller ran the ball in from nine yards out with 3:51 on the clock, wrapping a drive that ate up most of the final frame. Kingston gave itself a chance with a bit of razzle-dazzle on the ensuing kickoff as Mahki Matthews lateraled the ball to Jackson Parker for a 38-yard return to midfield. But the home team couldn’t move the ball after that, turning it over on downs and seeing a stellar effort yield a tough defeat.

After the game, Johnson was effusive in his praise for the defense, which has taken some time to come together.

“Defensively, it has been a constant process of putting players in best position to be successful,” he said. “Our defense this season didn’t return any starters from last season so we put out 11 new players. It’s a process getting them to learn the crafts of their position and being able to do it well on a consistent basis. We showed how well we can play defensively against a very good Warwick team. We are starting to click defensively at the right time. It’s exciting to watch.”

On the offensive side, the Tigers were forced into a ground game with Collin Ford playing quarterback in place of injured Chapman Parker. Kingston ran the ball 42 times for 192 yards, with C.J. Faircloth (12 carries for 98 yards) and Tyleaf McGriff (21 carries for 84 yards) leading the way. 

The Wildcats went up 7-0 in the second quarter after a 10-yard rushing score by Kyle Rooney. Kingston came back on the following possession, but couldn’t get the ball any closer than the Warwick 15 yard line. Junior Justin Longo nailed the first field goal of his high school career from 32 yards out, putting the Tigers on the board just prior to halftime.

The Tigers took the Wildcats by surprise, recovering a deftly delivered onside kick at midfield to open the second half. Faircloth rewarded Johnson’s risky call two plays later, running the ball into the end zone from 45 yards out. 

But ultimately, the Tigers came up short, falling to 2-5 overall, and 2-3 in Section IX, Class AA play. And yet their playoff hopes are very much alive, with a trip to battle Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association foe Pine Bush set for Friday, Oct. 19 in the regular season finale. A win and they’re in. A loss gives the two teams nipping at their heels for the fourth and final divisional slot a chance. Johnson said the Tigers are resisting the temptation to look ahead and are focusing squarely on the task at hand.

“We are getting ready for our challenge against Pine Bush by taking our preparation one day at time,” Johnson said. “I constantly encourage the kids to focus on preparation, not playing the time. The game will play itself out, but our preparation is what we should focus on. We certainly will have a great challenge ahead playing Pine Bush but we are looking forward to it. We have been challenged many times this year and our guys always answer the call. It would be very special to all of us to get this program back into the post season again.”

‘Outstanding’ fan support

Johnson said he was sorry the Tigers couldn’t pick up the senior night win at Dietz as it was likely their last game of the season there this year.

“Our fan support and community support has been and continues to be outstanding,” he said. “It’s such a great feeling knowing that no matter how tough a season we are having the community still shows up and supports this program. The atmosphere at Dietz is unlike any place I have ever been. The Friday night lights, the band playing, the energy, it is electric. All the more reason we are proud to be the Kingston Tigers and have our home be Dietz Memorial Stadium. I’d like to take a minute to thank all those fans who support us and our local businesses who support us as well. It is truly appreciated.”

Johnson also credited his team for their effort, adding Kingston’s record or where the chips fall when the season is over won’t tell the whole story of the 2018 Tigers.

“We have a very special group of kids playing this season for us,” Johnson said. “Regardless of our final outcome, they have made this community and program very proud.”

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