JFK overcomes Ironmen to stay perfect
CLEVELAND — Facing a bigger and faster opponent is nothing new for the John F. Kennedy defense. The result, however, wasn’t new, either, as the Eagles held Cleveland Central Catholic in check for most of a 27-14 victory at Stefanski Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“They’re a good football team,” JFK coach Jeff Bayuk said. They’re three divisions bigger than we are. They’re much bigger and much faster. Our kids rose to the occasion. We had kids playing positions they’ve never played before. Ross DeSalvo was one. Both of our centers were out injured and he had never played the position. He did a great job. That’s what being a team player is. These kids just keep playing. They don’t give up.”
Despite trailing for the first time all season, the Kennedy defense held the Ironmen playmakers in check for much of the afternoon.
“Our team gets 11 people to the ball every single time,” senior linebacker Ryan Lee said. “(Central Catholic) has a lot of playmakers and they have the potential to do anything. We locked down the inside and they had to kick it outside. The corners did a good job kicking it back inside. The defense did a great job getting good field position for the offense and giving it a little bit of hope.”
The Eagles (8-0, 3-0 in North Coast League White Division) allowed just 136 total yards. Just three of the 30 offensive plays run by Central Catholic gained more than seven yards (and only two others gained more than five), though the JFK defense surrendered the first two touchdowns it’s allowed all season.
“We take (giving up touchdowns) extremely personally,” Lee said. “After the first half, we were extremely mad, but we overcome adversity every day. Keep a team of good ballplayers in check is an important achievement for us.”
The Ironmen (2-6, 1-2) put the Eagles in a rare spot when they took the lead following an 85-yard run by Tyrek Glasco on the second play from scrimmage and a two-point conversion pass from Andre Gardner to Devon Adams. Mark Patterson set up Central Catholic’s other score with a 48-yard reception from Gardner. He scored from the 1 with 8:57 remaining in the fourth quarter for the final points of the afternoon.
“They have big-play potential,” Bayuk said. “(Patterson) is a great athlete. They had him in at running back, quarterback and out at receiver. They were doing everything they could to get the ball in his hands and there’s a reason — he’s dangerous.”
Kennedy got untracked after an interception set up the offense in the red zone. Evan Boyd got the Eagles within one, 8-7, with 10:52 remaining in the second quarter.
“Whenever you get the ball in the red zone on a turnover, you better score,” Bayuk said. “The first time, we didn’t. It took the kids a while to figure it out. Sometimes, it takes old men a while to figure it out, too.”
Boyd sent the Eagles into the break leading, 14-8, after he connected with Dan McCartney for a 25-yard score on a halfback pass with 4:12 left in the half.
After a Justin Bofenkamp field goal, quarterback Gregory Valent hit Hyland Burton for a 14-yard touchdown to put JFK in front, 24-8, with 4:58 left in the third quarter. Bofenkamp made it 27-8 following a field goal to close the third period.
“We ran a slant wheel,” Bayuk said. “The corner dropped off and Gregory hit the slant. That’s something you can’t teach.”
After Patterson’s fourth-quarter score, the Eagles went to the ground and ran nearly nine minutes off the clock to close out the game.
“Our kids were tired, too,” Bayuk said. “Most of our linemen and our running backs go both ways. When we have a chance to put a game away, that’s when our linemen get excited the most. They really roase to the occasion.”
Boyd led a ground attack that amassed 194 yards on the ground with 137 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.