KIPP falls to Milford in first Thanksgiving game

KIPP's Aris Luna scored a touchdown at Milford. (Item File Photo)

MILFORD — KIPP Academy football coach Jim Rabbitt and his Panthers were hungry to finish their inaugural season on a high note Thursday morning at Milford. The Panthers fell short of ending with a victory, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t accomplish their goal of finishing on a positive note.

KIPP’s Kymani Morrison, Aris Luna and Taj White-King each scored one touchdown for the Panthers in the program’s first Thanksgiving game, a 42-20 loss to the Milford Hawks.

Despite the defeat, Rabbitt was proud of his team’s performance in battling against a Division 3 Hawks team that made the state tournament.

“It was a great effort,” Rabbitt said. “We were down, 14-0, and came back and scored. We had a chance to tie the game at the end of the half but they stopped us at the goal line. We were pumped to play and we played very well against a good Milford team that plays in a tough Hockomock Conference.”

Milford took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter before Morrison, KIPP’s starting quarterback and a team captain, got the Panthers on the scoreboard with a 50-yard scramble for a touchdown (rush failed). Morrison, a senior, ends his Panthers career with 16 touchdowns scored.

“Kymani finds open space and he breaks loose for big runs,” Rabbitt said. “We find opportunities to get him the ball. We find ways to get him in open space. He’s a great athlete and we’re definitely going to miss him.”

The Panthers then scored their final two touchdowns of the game in the fourth quarter. Luna, a two-way player at defensive back and running back, picked up a Milford fumble and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown (rush failed). KIPP’s final score of the game came on a 20-yard connection from senior backup quarterback Jansiel Jimenez to freshman wide receiver White-King. Olivier Pyram, a senior offensive and defensive lineman who also serves as a captain, added the two-point conversion on a rush to seal the scoring.

“We won the second half,” Rabbitt said. “We’re proud of that and proud of the effort out there.”

The Panthers end their inaugural season at 3-7. KIPP won its season-opener with a victory over Atlantis Charter. After dropping six games in a row, the Panthers showed signs of late-season improvements and went on a two-game winning streak with victories over a pair of Boston City League teams in South Boston and Burker leading into the Thanksgiving game at Milford.

Looking back on the season overall, Rabbitt feels as though the first year was a success for his Panthers. He’s also confident that the program is in good hands moving forward.

“We finished with a high note,” Rabbitt said. “Our program’s on the upswing. Our seniors had great messages to the underclassmen after the game. They talked about staying dedicated and coming to practice. It was great. Our seniors laid a solid foundation for us and we’re already looking forward to next season and getting better.”

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