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Kennedy sticking to what it knows

JFK’s Caleb Hadley celebrates after a touchdown by Antwan Brown, not pictured, during the second half of Saturday nights regional final game at Marlington High School. JFK won 20-13 in overtime. (David Dermer/Warren Tribune Chronicle)

WARREN — Kennedy is at the doorstep of the state finals for the second time in as many years.

After some struggles in September, with losses to Garfield and Mogadore, the Eagles have fired off seven consecutive wins, most recently an overtime victory over Dalton.

So what’s been working so well for the Eagles? There’s no shortage of the talent on the roster and coach Dom Prologo believes they’ve been taking advantage of their talent as of later.

A little more intensity on the defensive side of things never hurt either.

“Offensively, we’ve been getting the ball to our playmakers and they’ve been making plays,” Prologo said. “Guys like Antwan Brown, Michael Mauro and Caleb Hadley.

“Defensively, our kids have been more physical than everybody we’ve played so far this year in the playoffs. That’s why we’re still playing.”

In that Dalton game however, things could have ended a lot differently. In fact, the Eagles were trailing by 13 at halftime.

A halftime spark came from their senior leadership and the Eagles were a whole new bird after the break. Kennedy held Dalton scoreless in the second half to force overtime, where a Hadley touchdown run gave the Eagles the lead.

Brown picked the ball off at the goal line to ice the game.

“We got a little bit of a scare on Saturday night,” Prologo said. “I’m not sure that we showed up to play the way we’re supposed to do it. Give Dalton credit, they came out ready to play.

“The second half was a different story. Our kids played playoff football. Your backs are against the wall, it’s win or go home and our kids, I think the light bulb went on, that if we don’t get it going right now, we’re going to be turning our stuff in on Monday.”

The thing about playoff football is that no matter how exciting the win, that game has to be put in the rearview within 24 hours.

After the comeback victory, Prologo says it’s a disappointment they can’t be happy with the accomplishment, but they need to focus on the tougher challenges ahead before they can reminisce.

“That’s one of the crappy things about playoff football, when you keep winning, you can’t celebrate your wins,” Prologo said. “You can’t celebrate your accomplishments, because it’s nose to the grindstone and onto the next game.”

That challenge is another familiar opponent as the Eagles face Newark Catholic in the Division VII state semifinals for the second year in a row.

Kennedy took down Newark Catholic 20-13 last season.

The Greenwave are a program with a near-unmatched tradition, but as Prologo said, none of the teams of the past are taking the field tonight.

“I’m not sure there’s anybody in the state that’s got as much tradition winning tradition as Newark Catholic does, but that being said, the 1991 state champion Eagles aren’t showing up Saturday night to play and neither are the 2016 Eagles,” he said. “We’re the 2021 Eagles and the 2021 Newark Catholic team is showing up.”

At this point in the season, what’s going to work for Kennedy (10-2) going forward is exactly what’s gotten them to this point.

To Prologo, there’s no special aspect they need to harp on. If they continue to do what’s worked over the last

“It’s going to come down to us protecting the ball and not turning it over, us winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, because at this point of the season, these games are line of scrimmage ball games,” Prologo said.

“And our playmakers have got to make plays and we’ve got to limit their playmakers.

“If we do those three things, I think we’ve got a great opportunity to have a chance to win.”

Kickoff for tonight’s game is set for 7 p.m. at Marlington High School outside of Alliance.

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