Hakeem may have graduated, but a Kinard is still leading York Catholic's offense
It's hard to quantify just how big a loss Hakeem Kinard was for the York Catholic football team this season.
To start, however, the Fighting Irish lost more than 3,400 yards of total offense and 37 touchdowns when the dual-threat quarterback graduated last spring.
The void left Head Coach Eric Depew trying to figure out how he was going to replace Kinard's production from a year ago, a season that was so dominant, it earned him York-Adams League Division III Player of the Year honors.
"Hakeem was a very special player," Depew said. "He did a lot for us."
It was anticipated that making up for Hakeem's lost production on the ground was going to rest heavily on the shoulders of his younger brother, Jakkar.
Jakkar, however, was still fairly raw when it came to playing running back at the varsity level.
As a sophomore last year, Jakkar mainly stuck to playing cornerback on the defensive side of the ball. He only had 37 carries for just more than 200 yards and three touchdowns as a running back, which ranked him fourth on the team.
So, it was to be expected that Jakkar might not live up to the very large shoes that his brother left behind, especially as just a junior. However, after a slow start to the season, not just for Jakkar, but for the entire York Catholic team, lately, it's looked like the transition from Hakeem to Jakkar is going smoothly. It's become more of a passing-of-the-torch situation than a drop off in production between two brothers who are much more than that.
"Me and Hakeem, man, we're like best friends," Jakkar said. "We've been best friends since we grew up together, since we were little. We played football together for the first year last year, and then, after playing football together last year, we gained an even closer relationship."
Close bond: Even now, with Hakeem a freshman at Saint Francis University, where he plays on the football team, the two remain close. Every day they're in contact, mostly via Snapchat, a picture-messaging application that is popular among teens and young adults.
When Hakeem comes home from college, the two hang out every day. Despite being just two years younger than Hakeem, Jakkar always looked up to his brother when it came to football. It made last year even more special for Jakkar, having the opportunity to share the same field as his older brother every Friday night and seeing up close, just how special a player he was.
"It was an awesome feeling," Jakkar said. "Sometimes I would get handoffs from him and that was a real good feeling, just my brother handing me the ball. I liked that."
Having his own success: So, when Hakeem graduated, Jakkar knew it would be difficult to fill the hole he was leaving behind.
A gap that large was going to take more of a team effort to fill, rather than just relying on one player to do the work. However, much can be said about the job Jakkar has done to make sure the team didn't miss a beat.
So far this season, Jakkar is third in the Y-A League in rushing with 676 yards, averaging 5.4 yards a run. He's also one of the top scorers in the league, recording eight touchdowns through seven games, good for 48 total points, tied for sixth.
"We were fortunate that we could only play him on defense last year because we did have some senior running backs," Depew said. "He did have a couple touches in some games. Just look at the 100-yard kickoff return touchdown against Berks and you could just see the future in Jakkar."
Chasing 1,000: Right now, Jakkar's rushing totals have him just off the pace of reaching 1,000 yards on the ground in the regular season. However, over the last two weeks, the Irish have picked up their play, enough so that they've turned a 1-4 start into a 3-4 mark heading into this weekend's match-up at Bermudian Springs. In the process, York Catholic has moved from fifth in the District 3-A power ratings to third, meaning that if the playoffs started today, the Irish would be in. Making the playoffs could be the ultimate factor in Jakkar being a 1,000-yard rusher in his first full season as the team's top running back.
"It's something I've wanted to since I was in middle school," he said.
There's no doubt that Jakkar has filled the shoes his brother left behind and run with them.
He's become one of the most dynamic backs in the league and is a significant reason why York Catholic has turned its season around. What started as a lost season, where the team didn't look like it would rebound from Hakeem's loss, has been turned around. The Irish have also found a new leader in his younger brother.
Hakeem knew what it took to be successful at the high school level and turned it into a chance to play in college. Now, it's Jakkar's turn to carry on that success.
When asked if Hakeem gave him any pointers going into the year, Jakkar listed just one and laughed.
"He told me not to get tackled."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker