LYNN — Thursday night’s game between the KIPP Academy and Keefe Tech football teams belonged to Panthers quarterback Pierro Canales. A freshman making his second start under center, Canales ran for 129 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead his Panthers to a 26-16 win at a rainy Manning Field.
“Pierro has just matured so much,” KIPP coach Jim Rabbitt said. “He’s a freshman. We brought him along slowly, he started picking up the offense in Week 3 or 4. He has natural speed and ability. We couldn’t not put him in there at this point. His speed, football IQ, his ability to make people miss — he’s a special athlete.”
Not to be outdone, Panthers sophomore running back Daniel Oluwasuyi carried the ball 12 times for 115 yards. Oluwasuyi’s 45-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds to play put the game well out of Keefe Tech’s reach.
“We wanted to establish the ground game today,” Rabbitt said. “When we needed to, we could throw the ball. It was tough with the weather conditions. We wanted to make things easy for Pierro and let him use his God-given ability by running the ball. Everyone stepped up. Our offensive line, led by Dave Filias, Mike Bryce and Jose Castillo, really stepped up.”
The Broncos put KIPP’s defense on its heels on the opening drive. Miguel Perez carried Keefe Tech into KIPP territory with a 20-yard run. The Broncos reached the Panthers’ 15-yard line before Mike Bryce recovered a Keefe Tech fumble to squash the early threat.
“Our defensive coordinator, Dan O’Connor, called a great game defensively,” Rabbitt said. “The wing-T is hard to stop when you’re not ready to stop it. He had our guys ready to make plays. (Keefe Tech) made a couple big plays but we stepped up. Kudos to our defense for making those calls.”
KIPP cashed in on its ensuing possession. The Panthers slowly gained yards with short carries from Oluwasuyi and Canales, setting up a huge play for the game’s first score. Canales ran a keeper 52 yards into the end zone with 10:49 left in the second quarter. Canales linked up with Taj White-King for the 2-point conversion, handing the Panthers an 8-0 lead. Keefe Tech answered quickly with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Grady Haufman to Emanuel Capelan. Miguel Perez ran in the conversion to knot the score at 8-8, where it stayed at halftime thanks to a late Broncos defensive stand.
Keefe Tech took a 16-8 lead when Rolando Vasquez scored on a 17-yard carry (Perez rush) midway through the third quarter. KIPP slimmed the Broncos’ lead down to 16-14 before the end of the quarter on Canales’ 5-yard touchdown scramble (conversion failed).
“It’s been one way or the other for us,” Rabbitt said. “We’ve been dominating or a couple other games we’ve gotten dominated. This is the first real test for us, all four quarters. We shined up to the challenge.”
Canales nailed down his hat trick on a 1-yard keeper with 4:30 left in the game (conversion failed), reclaiming the lead for KIPP at 20-16. Oluwasuyi sealed the 26-16 win with a 45-yard touchdown run and Canales intercepted a pass in the closing seconds.
The Panthers (3-3) host Minuteman next Saturday (2) in their regular-season finale.
“We’re exactly where we want to be,” Rabbitt said. “We know we’re not done yet. We have one more game. Minuteman’s a tough team. They have a really good running back. I coached at Minuteman my first year. We’re going to celebrate this win but we know we’re not done yet.”