For most defensive players, the end zone is a thing of myth. It’s something you’re supposed to defend. It’s to your back and no one shall pass the sacred white line.
But if you’re Burlingame’s Andrew Kennedy, a defensive back, the opponent’s end zone throughout his varsity career is more like a home away from home.
Last year as a sophomore, Kennedy scored a pair of defensive touchdowns that cemented him as one of the Panthers’ most dynamic defenders and gave the Burlingame coaching staff a lot to look forward to in his junior season.
And come the start of the new Peninsula Athletic League season, it appears Kennedy really, really likes the friendly confines of the Promised Land.
“I think last year, he was just out there on instinct — defense, learning the scheme, picking up the varsity tempo,” said Burlingame head coach John Philipopoulos. “As a starter in the Bay Division, he grew up pretty fast. This year, he’s much more involved with the mental side of the game. He’s asking more questions after film and when we’re out there doing our walk throughs, he’s a little more involved in that as well.”
Kennedy’s prowess for the big play on defense has evolved cerebrally and thus has guided the Panthers to an undefeated start to the 2013 season. And that prowess was on full display during the Daily Journal Game of the Week against Aragon High School in what many believed was the Ocean Division’s premiere match up of the season.
In that win, Kennedy led the Panthers with 10 tackles. But, most importantly, No. 14 picked off two second half passes and returned them to the house in leading Burlingame back from a 10-7 halftime deficit.
For his efforts, Kennedy is the Daily Journal Athlete of the Week.
“Andrew had a tremendous game,” Philipopoulos said. “They (the interceptions) changed the momentum and, in that one case, it kind of sealed the deal. He made big plays and he was at the right place at the right time. Andrew has kind of had a history of that.
“We move him around based on the scheme — sometimes he’ll be free safety, sometimes he’ll play strong safety, so just having a better overall knowledge of the defense combined with the greater interest in being more involved with the game plan as well, being more keen on the other team’s tendencies and what we’re trying to take away has been the key.”
Kennedy’s touchdowns were huge. The first, a 10-yard Pick-6, came after Burlingame had seized the momentum to lead 13-10. On that play, Kennedy jumped a route and had an easy road to the end zone.
“What started it all was the pressure up front,” Philipopoulos said. “Our defensive line was doing a pretty good job of getting some penetration when [Aragon] would drop back to throw and we were pretty aggressive with some of our blitzes, especially on the inside. But I think Andrew deserved a good amount of the credit because he has a knack for being at the right place at the right time.”
Kennedy proved his coach right in the fourth quarter when he made another interception and took it 42 yards into Touchdown Land to seal the deal for the Panthers.
“There’s no question about it,” Philipopoulos said when asked if those plays sent a bit of a message about the Panthers’ 2013 defensive strength. “The defense was on the field for three touchdowns. They kept us alive. Truth be told with all the turnovers in the first quarter, the game would have been ... maybe 21-0. But, our defense held up, they did a great job, they played extremely physical, they tackled real well.”