Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham knows a few things after a close call with rival JFK Saturday:
* his team … and its playmakers … can win a tough, close game;
* it's tough to go 7-0; and
* the new format has put a target on the Golden Eagles' backs.
"I tell you what -- Kennedy, they came to play," said Graham, coach and alum of the No. 2 small school. "They played very, very well. It was a fantastic football game."
The Golden Eagles (7-0, 5-0) scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears, 22-14, with Rhakeem Wiggins (112 yards rushing, 16 carries, two touchdowns) and Peter Westbrooks (140 yards, 20 carries) each running for the crucial scores.
The Golden Eagles' comeback started with an interception by Kevin Washington, which started a possession that would end with a 4-yard run by Wiggins with 8:46 left. Westbrooks later scored on a 5-yard run with 3:35 left.
"Our playmakers were able to make plays at the end. We saw a goal-line front for the most part of the afternoon. JFK did a nice job, and our playmakers made plays at the end."
That was encouraging since JFK hasn't really had a close game since its' 6-0 season-opening victory at Maryvale.
"I think it is [good to have a tough game going into the playoffs] -- really, when you look at it, our starters have not played more than a half in the last three weeks," said Graham. "Going into the fourth quarter and coming from behind, we proved to ourselves we can do it. We hope to keep the momentum going."
Graham said his team got a "great defensive performance" from Ron Lawrence, who had 11 tackles. Curtis Hairston had 13 tackles and three sacks as the Golden Eagles completed a perfect regular season.
"It's hard to go 7-0 … I think it's the first time we've gone 7-0 at Cleve Hill. We were close a couple of times, like with that really good 2000 team that [former coach Dennis] Mason had, but I think they lost a game. As a coach and a player … and that's 30-35 years right there for me … I'm pretty sure we haven't gone 7-0. It's been a long time."
JFK quarterback Daron Lispcomb was 9 of 17 for 168 yards, with most of those connections going to Josh Klyzcek (six passes for 132 yards).
JFK (3-4, 2-3) goes from one division winner to another -- the Bears play at Class C South champion Southwestern next week in the quarterfinals.
Cleveland Hill hosts a tough Salamanca squad.
"Salamanca is a pretty good team -- we watched them [Friday night] against Westfield," said Graham. "The new format puts pressure on the No. 1 team. They'll come in with nothing to lose, and they'll be tough."