WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s been ten years since Warren JFK has had a football team in the State Final Four, and 25 years since they’ve won a State Title. But the Eagles are right on the doorstep as they’r the only local team here in Ohio still practicing…and just two wins away from adding a new banner to the gym wall.
It’s been a dominant playoff run for Warren JFK.
The Eagles have polished off wins over a trio of perennial state powers…Toronto, Mogadore, and Saint Paul…outscoring their three playoff opponents by a combined 102-16.
“Well, I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished,” Head Coach Jeff Bayuk said. “We’ve overcome so much adversity this year with injuries and a tough schedule and things like that. And their spirit has never waned one bit. Very resilient. They’ve been flexible and versatile in what we’ve asked them to do, and they’ve done it all with an enthusiasm that rivals any team I’ve ever coached.”
That enthusiasm is especially evident on defense. It’s a unit that has allowed just one team to score more than fourteen points in a game the entire season. In the “Snow-Bowl” of week thirteen, Kennedy scored three defensive touchdowns in a 35-point win.
“Ya know, we really try to get a mean defense,” Senior Ross Nocera said. “We call ourselves the blue storm and we try to get eleven hats to the ball every play and we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that.”
Saturday night’s game against 10-3 Harvest Prep marks the Eagles first trip to the State Final Four in a decade.
“There’s a lot of tradition at Kennedy,” Nocera added. “The guys on the ’06 team made it to State and unfortunately lost. We want to do it for them. We want to do it for those guys. Also, ’91 when we won the State Championship, We want to do it for those guys as well. We want to bring something back to the school.”
Bayuk’s messsage to his team is a simple one heading in.
“My message to them is stay focused. Be intense. and take care of your job on Saturday night. Do the best you can. and we’ll take whatever happens,” said Bayuk.
“These last two years we’ve picked it up. Especially this year we’re in round four. This is like a dream come true. Everything I have hoped for. Hopefully we can keep rolling,” Senior Lineman Bruce Johnson said.
Kennedy will take on Harvest Prep this Saturday. The Warriors have been on a tear winning 10 straight. Their Junior Tailback Daniel Bangura has rushed for a State record 4,000 yards this season, and scored 56 touchdowns along the way. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 7PM at New Philadelphia High School.