ANAHEIM — The young Kennedy football team was in control for much of the second half of its nonleague contest against Long Beach Jordan on Thursday night at Western High School.
But the situation changed quickly when the Panthers scored two late touchdowns and came away with a 30-21 victory.
The season-opening contest for both teams was marred by penalties and mistakes by both squads but most of the Panthers’ penalties were of the 15-yard variety, which helped the Fighting Irish (0-1) take a 21-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
A 13-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Devin Almazan, who also ran for a touchdown, gave the Fighting Irish an 18-10 lead late in the third quarter.
Almazan started three games for Kennedy last season as a freshman.
“He was amazing,” Kennedy coach Dan Urbano said of Almazan’s performance. “He made plays on the move. He threw the ball downfield. They pressured him all night. He plays above his age.”
A personal foul and roughing the passer penalty helped Kennedy get close enough for Diego Martinez to kick a 24-yard field goal to take a two-score lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the game.
But Jordan Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to make it a one-score game with seven minutes and 48 seconds left.
Kennedy was forced to punt on its next drive, in part because Almazan was sacked for a 13-yard loss, but the snap sailed over Martinez’s head and went into the end zone where Dylan Falefitu wrapped up the ball to give the Panthers the lead.
There was nearly six minutes left when Kennedy got the ball back, but Almazan was sacked twice, forcing Kennedy to punt.
The Panthers put the game away with a 12-yard touchdown run by Jaret Nielsen.
“I told them this was going to be that kind of a game,” Urbanos said. “We’re very inexperienced. We’ve got a lot of great, tough kids and a lot of up-and-coming talent. The third quarter was great for us and the fourth quarter … It’s inexperience at this point.”
Kennedy was playing a Jordan team that reached the CIF SS Division 11 final last season.
The Panthers defeated the Fighting Irish 47-46 in overtime in the season opener last season.
“I wanted to make sure we played them again, Urbanos said. “They’re a tough test for us.”