Warren JFK seeks improvement after most recent loss
LIBERTY — It’s all a part of the process for first-year Warren JFK head coach Damon Buente.
Despite Saturday’s 41-7 setback at the hands of Mogadore, Buente and his team remain unperturbed in their pursuit of the Eagles’ overarching goals.
“When I’m driving home at night, I think about those things,” Buente said of the team’s goals after Saturday’s loss. “Honestly it’s never about who we’re playing, it’s about Monday. Monday we have a speed session, we have a film session and we have a practice. So in that three-hour window, we have to give them information, we have to get them faster, then ultimately teach them the game plan (for each week). So the vision for the end of the year is completely irrelevant if we don’t have a fantastic Monday, then parlay that into Tuesday (and so forth).”
What Buente means by that is that growth and improvement comes in incremental steps.
His players can’t continue to improve without putting in the work one day, which is then built on the next day.
With the Eagles’ (1-4) Week 4 game against Sandusky Perkins getting canceled due to injury numbers, this week’s matchup against the Wildcats was effectively the halfway point of the season for Kennedy.
“Today was our midterm. If I had to give ourselves a report card, we are improving in so many areas,” Buente said. “But our message this week to our players was that you need all 11 (players) to survive and make it to the next play. …I feel like there’s improvements being made. We’re far away, but we’re really close. I know that’s contradictory, but I do feel like our midterm grade is improving in certain areas, but still need a lot of work in other areas.”
Since being named JFK’s head coach on March 15, Buente has learned a lot so far in his first season, firstly that he’s not just a position coach anymore.
“First thing I’ve learned is that I’m no longer just a position coach,” Buente said. “I was a position coach for 10-12 years and I was able to think and process and make notes and write things down, but now there’s just so many other things going on — managing coaches, managing players, managing injuries. I don’t have three seconds to think about just my position group. I wish I did.
“The second thing is that it’s on you to get your kids to play hard on gameday. We talk about our message all week, then before the game and then ultimately, it’s on me to get the kids ready to play hard for that three-hour window. So learning how to be a manager during the game, a motivator during the week and during the game, even when things go poorly — that’s something that I have to (continue) to read up on and make some phone calls about.”
Even with the struggles that JFK has faced this season — a decrease in team numbers, mounting injuries and a daunting schedule for a young team — there’ve been bright spots along the journey.
The Eagles opened the season with a 26-7 win over Champion and gave undefeated Garfield a fight for a half. Against South Range, the Eagles drove down and scored on the game’s opening possession before the Raiders settled in. Then on Saturday against Mogadore, quarterback Freddy Bolchalk connected with Marcus Komora for an 82-yard touchdown strike.
“Marcus has proved all year, even since last year in the playoffs, that he can score anytime he touches the football on offense, defense or special teams,” Buente said. “The line gave protection for Freddy to put the ball on him, and then Marcus really just had a sensational play. We love what Marcus brings to the table for us, and we’re very proud of him.”
But that’s been the story of Kennedy’s season. It’s been a play here or a drive there, maybe even a quarter comes together sometimes.
But like Buente said after JFK’s defeat to South Range, the Eagles need to string plays together to turn them into drives, string drives together to turn them into points and string quarters together to turn them into wins.
“I believe that trust is something in a relationship that’s built over time — sometimes a long time, sometimes a short time,” Buente said. “I feel that our assistant coaches are teaching and trust is being built. I feel that when they are experiencing success, as random as it may be or as little as it may be, they’re starting to trust what the coaches are teaching them. We talk about a light bulb and the light bulb is flickering. Can the assistant coaches and myself get that light bulb to stay on?
“We’re just building rapport and encouraging them and finding the good in what they’re doing and they will experience success at some point. We just have to continue to coach them up and get better.”