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Rockets can’t keep up with top seed

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Lowellville’s Anthony Lucente, left, tries to avoid Kennedy’s Alex DeSalvo during Friday night’s Division VII playoff game at Liberty.

LIBERTY — An explosion of offense by Warren John F. Kennedy in the second half propelled the Eagles to a 65-33 second-round playoff victory over Lowellville Friday night.

“We came out and we absolutely gave them a shot,” Rockets coach Andrew Mamula said. “We came out and we wanted to win. We didn’t want to play for a close game. We came out to try and win.

“Obviously we knew our only path was to try and recover some onside kicks and get some extra possessions because we knew our offense was going to play well. We thought we had some matchups we could take advantage of and we did. Unfortunately, we didn’t get those onside kicks.”

Lowellville’s offense did play well, led by sophomore quarterback Vinny Ballone.

Ballone threw for 289 yards on 27 completions and five touchdowns.

“He’s exciting to watch,” Mamula said. “He makes the engine go, and he’s a special player. These are kids you get every 30 to 40 years at a small school, and you can’t waste their talent.”

Ballone’s primary target was senior receiver Cole Bunofsky, who was hit nine times for 159 yards and four touchdowns — including a 60-yard bomb. The only other Rockets touchdown pass went to Anthony Lucente.

With how well Ballone has played, Mamula thinks he can match up with anyone in their league.

“With everyone in the playoffs, we wanted to show everyone how good of a kid he is,” Mamula said. “He’s done it against Springfield, McDonald, JFK. He’s not just beating up on the lower tier teams in our league. He’s doing it against quality competition.

On the other side of the field is Kennedy’s do-it-all machine, Cam Hollobaugh. Hollobaugh was a workhorse for the Eagles with 40 passing yards, 227 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown.

“It’s a good thing he got his CDL because he drove the bus here, and he’s going to drive it back home too,” Eagles coach Dom Prologo said. “I heard at halftime he was selling popcorn too.”

The flurry of offense was kickstarted by a last-second 31-yard touchdown throw by Hollobaugh to senior Gabe Green to close out the first half.

“We’ve had that happen to us twice the other way this year and when you get that momentum going into halftime it really changes things,” Prologo said.

In the locker room, Prologo reminded the Eagles that it’s the postseason and they need to get back to playing their brand of football.

“All I said was, ‘It’s time to play JFK football,’ ” Prologo said.

That JFK football consisted of four second half touchdowns and holding Lowellville to one score as the Eagles pulled away to get the win.

Lowellville’s playoff journey ends, but the Rockets plan to play a few more regular season games provided they can get the matchups.

“We have a couple games scheduled,” Mamula said. “Depending on the league, we’re supposed to finish our one league game (Western Reserve) and then we have East Palestine too. We’re going to give the kids a week and see where their heads are at and where the AD and the other teams are, but we are trying to play our last two games.”

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