By Steve Ruman
For 16 years, Jeff Bayuk helped develop the Hubbard Eagles into one of the premiere football programs in Trumbull County.
Bayuk is now looking to duplicate the feat at another Eagles nest.
Bayuk, who guided Hubbard to a 120-46 record and has also rebuilt programs at Canfield and Campbell, is now at the helm of the Warren John F. Kennedy program. He takes over for Dave Pappada, whose contract was not renewed following a three-year stint.
Though JFK boasts one of the most successful programs in area history, Bayuk knows it will take a lot of work to get the Eagles consistently soaring in the right direction.
“We have to build from the junior high level on up; it’s the only way a program of this size can succeed,” Bayuk said. “We need strong numbers at every grade. For instance, we have 45 boys in grades nine through 12. That’s not a bad number for a Division VII school, but we only have six juniors. One small class can really set you back.”
Bayuk said the Eagles also must increase their strength, physically.
“We simply have to get our guys in the weight room,” Bayuk said. “That was one of my first observations upon arriving here.”
Kennedy’s offense will revolve around senior quarterback Michael Roscoe. As a junior, Roscoe threw for 1,519 yards and rushed for another 722 while scoring 19 touchdowns.
“Someone who is going to touch the ball on every play must be a team leader, and that’s just what Michael is,” Bayuk said. “It is very evident that he not only has the athletic ability to lead a team, but the right mindset. He has the trust of his teammates.”
Sophomore wide receiver Jacob Coates, senior wide receiver Dante Munno and senior receiver and running back Royal Smith provide the Eagles with some depth and experience at the skilled positions.
Senior two-year letterman Jimmy Misocky (center) will anchor an otherwise inexperienced line.
“JFK has a great reputation for its spread formations, but we want to pull in the reigns a little bit and be more aggressive and physical up front,” Bayuk said. “We can and will still spread things out and utilize our quarterback and our skilled players, but we also want to line up and play smash-mouth football.”
The skilled players which provide the Eagles with weapons on offense should also give them a formidable defensive backfield. Ross Nocera and Dimaje Clinkscale will highlight the linebacking corps. Senior Alec Pontikos (6-foot-6, 280) provides what Bayuk describes as “an interesting mix of size and speed” and should offer leadership on the defensive line.
“Right now, I don’t think our guys grasp the concept of how to play successful defense — they don’t understand its importance,” Bayuk said. “That’s something they have to learn in a hurry, and they will.”
The Eagles lost four-year kicker Eric Bofenkamp to graduation. Eric’s brother, sophomore Justin Bofenkamp is ready to fill the void. Bofenkamp, along with Roscoe are front-runners to handle the punting duties. Coates will be the Eagles’ main weapon in the return game.
Last year Kennedy went 2-8, but the Eagles were just one win away from making the playoffs. They have just two Division VII opponents on the schedule, so there is room for error.
“We have a challenging schedule and we have very little depth, so we absolutely have to remain healthy,” Bayuk said. “We have some very promising underclassmen, but they are going to have to grow up in a hurry.”
Bayuk believes the play of the defense will go a long way in deciding the Eagles’ fate.
“If we’re going to have any chance of success, we’re going to have to learn how to get after it defensively,” Bayuk said.
27Gian Carlo DiPauloWR-LB5-6140Jr.