Football Jordan

Football: Jordan Wins Emotional Overtime Opener Against Kennedy

By the time the final whistle blew, tears and emotion were flowing freely on the field at Jordan. The Panthers had just won a war of attrition with Kennedy, reversing momentum several times in a game that literally came down to the last play. After stopping the Irish short on an attempted two-point conversion, the Panthers flooded onto the field in celebration of their thrilling 47-46 overtime victory.

“I haven’t been in a big game like this in a long time,” said Jordan coach Tim Wedlow. “This is good to have a win like that–it helps our school and our community. Everybody–even me. I thought I’d have a heart attack tonight.”

Jordan junior Damian Henderson turned in a star performance, with a rushing touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown, a sack, a fumble recovery, and an interception in the win for the Panthers.

Support The562.org

“We just kept fighting,” he said after the game. “Even when we were down and the momentum was against us, we just kept fighting.”

It was just the second time in nine seasons that Jordan has won their season opener, and it’s been a long time since they won a game so dramatically.

“Nobody quit,” said Wedlow. “They kept fighting. I said we have to keep it going, we can’t lay our heads down. I looked down the sideline, I looked at my 27, 28 guys and I said this is it. This is the big game. Y’all want to play a championship game? This is it right here tonight.”

The game had the makings of a memorable one right from the start. Jordan had a strong opening drive, but ended up giving up a touchdown on a botched snap to their punter, which Kennedy’s Justin Kung scooped and took 55 yards for the score.

The next big play came from Jordan linebacker/tight end Jeremie McGurn, who snagged an interception on defense. That was the spark the Panthers needed, as they went on a run-heavy dominant 66 yard touchdown drive punched in by a one-yard score from quarterback Makhi Travis. The Panthers ran it eight times on the 10-play scoring drive.

Kennedy’s Niko Brown cut the celebration short, however, as he returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a score. The Panthers responded immediately, however, with a huge pass from Travis to Elijah Jones and a 22-yard keeper from Travis. McGurn punched it in from three yards out to tie the game up. At that point, midway through the second quarter, it was 14-14 and the Jordan defense had only been on the field for four plays—and Kennedy had two scores on special teams.

Jordan’s defense became dominant, with tackles for a loss from Kharlin Tizeno and Alvaro Gomez. When Jordan got it back with a short field, Travis had an ankle-breaking highlight touchdown run of 25 yards which saw him shake two defenders and break two tackles. 

The teams traded drives after that, with Jordan’s Damian Henderson snagging an interception. Kennedy came within a point of tying it up, scoring on a Hail Mary play to end the half with Hunter Benton snagging a fly ball in the end zone. The Kennedy extra point fell short, making it 21-20 Jordan at halftime.

Henderson recovered a fumble on the first play of the second half and McGurn quickly scored his second touchdown of the game. Kennedy answered back on the ensuing drive but missed the 2PC making it 28-26 Jordan. Late in the third, Kennedy took the lead on the third of four touchdown catches by Hunter Benton, but Henderson returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to keep Jordan up 34-32.

The Panthers took what looked like their final lead of the game on a Henderson touchdown early in the fourth quarter that put Jordan up 40-32. At that point, the fact that almost all of Jordan’s players were going both ways caught up with them, as they had players going down almost every play with cramps.

“We had parents who are doctors and nurses volunteer to come down and help out with the kids and we needed it because everybody’s going both ways, and we need them back on the field,” said Wedlow. “But the kids kept getting back up and getting out there. I’m seeing everybody playing with heart.”

Jordan faltered before a surging Kennedy team in the fourth, though, as Kennedy tied it with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. The momentum was squarely on the Irish sideline, but Jordan dug deep with a defensive stop to force overtime. In OT, Henderson carried it three times, then McGurn–back in the game after sitting injured in part of the fourth–brought it to the one-yard line where Travis punched it in for his third score of the night.

“I can’t even tell you what it means to me and to my team,” said Travis.

That put Jordan’s defense in the position of making one more stop. When Benton hauled in his fourth touchdown on the second play of overtime, it didn’t look like it would happen. But the Irish elected to go for two and the win, and Jacob Hernandez met Jordan Washington in the backfield, hauling down Benton and ending the game, setting off a huge celebration in North Long Beach.

“I got hit in the shin with a helmet and I was hurting back,” said McGurn. “They didn’t want me to go back in and I said I’m going in for my brothers. I’m going in for my brothers and we’re going to fight and we’re going to win.”

McGurn finished with two touchdown runs and an interception, while Travis ran for three scores and Henderson had the full stat line offensively and defensively. Jordan will hit the road for its next three games including a road trip to JW North next Thursday.

VIDEO: Jordan vs. Kennedy, Football

PHOTOS: Jordan vs. Kennedy Football


Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.