Sunday, November 13, 2016
Eagles avenge 2015 playoff loss
By MIKE MCLAIN
Jeff Bayuk was looking for something to chase away the ghosts of previous losses to the Mogadore Wildcats.
The only concoction the Warren John F. Kennedy Eagles coach needed to mix up was to ask his defense for some help. The talented unit spent all of four quarters chasing away everything dressed in the green of the Wildcats at Reilly Stadium as the Eagles advanced Saturday with a 16-3 win in the second round of the Division VII, Region 25 playoffs.
Other than a 46-yard run by Wildcats quarterback Kole Jaber in the second quarter, the Eagles defense was suffocating. Take away Jaber’s run, which led to a 29-yard field goal by Grant Slabaugh, and Mogadore had just 82 yards of offense. Mogadore ran just nine plays inside JFK territory and managed just four first downs.
“We had a huge revenge factor coming into the game,” Eagles linebacker Ryan Lee said. “To make a stand like that leading to three points. That’s a powerhouse, Mogadore. Everybody at school was like, ‘Oh, these guys are going to be rough. Don’t overestimate them.’
“We knew they had a chance to win. We knew we had a chance to win. Our goal the whole night was to keep them in the middle and have them bounce it out and our safeties will be there to plug the holes.”
The Wildcats (9-3) have had numerous successes against Mahoning Valley teams over the years, including a 35-7 win over the Eagles in a region final last season. The Eagles (11-1) made a statement when their defensive line gang tackled Austin Williams for a safety on a run from the 1 at the 7:53 mark of the opening period. Mogadore was pinned at its 1 following a punt by Justin Bofenkamp.
The safety set the tone for the rest of the game. Both defenses played well, but the Wildcats had a few more breakdowns.
“Our defense does a phenomenal job,” Bayuk said. “We put them in predicaments time after time, and they bail us out. One of these days we’re going to figure it all out, but we’ll take it as they come.”
The big play offensively for JFK came when quarterback Gregory Valent found Jacob Coates wide open on a 31-yard scoring pass with 1:08 remaining in the second quarter. Bofenkamp’s point-after kick gave the Eagles a 9-3 halftime lead.
“I thought we moved the ball pretty well between the 20s, but when we got in the red zone we found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Bayuk said. “We just ran a post-corner with both of our wides. Greg picked the guy that was open and threw a beautiful pass.”
JFK added an insurance score with 1:13 remaining in the game when Ross Nocera broke through the middle of the line and scored on a 19-yard run.
The Wildcats weren’t able to mount any scoring threats after Slabaugh’s field goal. They were often backed up in their territory, which was lethal against the Eagles’ fast-pursuing defense.
“We all have motors,” Lee said. “We try to get to the ball every single play. Eleven hats to the ball is our motto.”
The Wildcats’ final possession ended when Alec Burzynski, on fourth-and-4, stepped in front of a pass by Jaber for Jake Jeter and made the interception at the Eagles’ 45.
JFK marched the 55 yards needed for Nocera’s touchdown on 10 plays. Earlier on the drive while lining up to go for a first down on fourth-and 3 from the Wildcats’ 36, the Eagles received a gift when a defender jump offside.
JFK will play undefeated Norwalk St. Paul Saturday for the region championship.