Flying like an Eagle

Valent making strides in John F. Kennedy’s offensive scheme

110516...R TORONTO@JFK 4...Warren...11-05-16... JFK's QB #4 Gregory Valent fights off Toronto's #34 Max Tice while rushing for yardage as JFK's #7 Evan Boyd follows the play during 1st Qt. R. Michael Semple

For the John F. Kennedy Eagles, practice makes perfect. In particular, first-year starting quarterback Greg Valent has gained valuable experience this year, and he’s only getting better with each passing week.

“Like anybody else, the more you practice, the more you play, the better you get,” Kennedy coach Jeff Bayuk said. “The reps have really helped him. But, we still have a lot of faith in our running game.”

In a defensive battle against Mogadore last week, Valent went 10-of-16 for 97 yards, with five of those completions going to Jake Coates. Coates and unsung hero Thomas Yanovich, a 5-foot-9 junior, helped move the chains and ultimately open up the running lanes in Kennedy’s 16-3 victory over the Wildcats last Saturday night.

“Hyland Burton was our primary receiver when Jake Coates was out for most of the (regular) season, and he did an excellent job for us,” Bayuk said. “With Coates back, it offers us the opportunity to do different things (with our offense). It’s predicated on what the quarterback is reading, and with Dan McCartney, Coates, Burton and Yanovich, we feel pretty good about all four of those guys.”

While the run-first Eagles passed the test against No. 2-seeded Mogadore, they’ll face their biggest challenge of the season this Saturday night, as they’ll take on the No. 1-seeded Norwalk St. Paul Flyers in Strongsville, for the Division VII, Region 25 championship.

Much like Kennedy (11-1), the Flyers are a run-heavy team with a great defense. This past Saturday, they defeated No. 4 Monroeville, 24-0, in a rematch of a Week 10 matchup that allowed Kennedy to move from fourth to third in the final Region 25 rankings.

St. Paul’s (12-0) strength, according to Bayuk, starts with its lethal running back tandem.

“They’re (St. Paul) a very fundamentally sound, well-coached team that will rely heavily on the run,” Bayuk said. “They’ve got a fullback, Colton Service, who’s about 200 pounds. They have a junior tailback in Derrick Good who has really good speed.”

While Kennedy will certainly be challenged early and often this Saturday, it has seemingly dominated every great running game it has faced to this point. Over the past three weeks, it’s held run-based teams like St. Thomas Aquinas, Toronto and most recently, Mogadore, to very limited yardage.

Against the Wildcats, Kennedy held Mogadore to just 85 yards on 27 attempts (3.2 average), a common theme for the stout Eagles run defense all year. But for Bayuk, he knows as well as anyone that this time of year, even the short runs can be deadly.

“Our defense has really carried us for the entire season,” Bayuk said. “But we know that when we face these kinds of teams (Region 25 playoff opponents), they’re gonna try to grind it out against us and we have to be ready to stop it.”