Back on the field: Bayuk to coach JFK

WARREN – After 35 straight years of coaching football on the high school level, Jeff Bayuk decided to take last year off.

For someone who had the sport running through his blood for such a long time, a one-year hiatus was long enough. Bayuk realized he was ready to return to coaching once the 2013 season ended, and Wednesday he was named the head coach of the John F. Kennedy Eagles.

Bayuk didn’t totally stay away from football last year. He was a spectator at games involving Struthers High School, where his son John is an assistant coach.

That taste of football fueled Bayuk’s juices to return to the sideline, despite the fact he didn’t miss the long hours involved with running a program.

“I missed parts of it more than other parts,” Bayuk said. “I missed working with the kids and I missed the guys I coached with and the camaraderie. There were parts of it I didn’t miss. I suppose that’s true with anything you do.”

If Bayuk learned anything from his lengthy time as a coach, it’s the value of making the most of one’s time. He knows there will be long hours developing game plans and watching them develop on the practice field, but he hopes to have help from others on a staff he’s yet to assemble.

“The older you get, the more you aim for quality time instead of quantity,” the 55-year-old Bayuk said. “Anymore, coaching football is a year-round thing. I’m going to have some help in that regard, and that will help in differentiating the amount of time and energy I have to spend on ancillary things outside of the football part of it.”

Bayuk began coaching for the Sharon Kennedy Christian freshman team in 1978. Former area coach Dick Angle, who coached at Ursuline and Howland High Schools, was the Sharon Kennedy varsity coach at the time.

Bayuk served as the head coach at Canfield from 1976-90, Hubbard from 1991-2006 and Campbell Memorial from 2007-09. He was the quarterbacks coach for Angle at Howland in 2010 and 2011 and served as offensive coordinator for Warren G. Harding coach Steve Arnold in 2012.

Bayuk compiled a record of 155-94 as a head coach. His teams made seven playoff appearances and won six Trumbull Athletic Conference-8 championships.

“Coach Bayuk is a dynamic coach and educator committed to restoring our football program to a state power once again,” JFK Principal Brian Sinchak said. “Our student athletes will benefit from his years of head coaching experience in the (Mahoning) Valley.”

Bayuk, who teaches at Hubbard, admits he enjoys challenges, which is exactly what he faces at JFK. Declining enrollment has added to the difficulty of winning on a consistent basis. Last season the Eagles finished with a 2-8 record, although they were mathematically alive in the Division VI playoff chase until the last week of the regular season.

“There have been different challenges at every place,” Bayuk said. “That’s kind of like what I learned to do from coach Angle to take programs and infuse energy into them and see if we can get them back on track.

“Kennedy isn’t far removed from success. I don’t think it’s as easy as it used to be, but hopefully the enthusiasm and excitement we inject into the environment might help enrollment and get more kids to come out (for football).

“I remember when Denny Zolciak and coach (Tony) Napolet and Dave Pappada coached here and did great jobs. Kennedy was a force to be reckoned with for years. I’m excited to be included in that group of names.”

Bayuk is proud of the fact he was able to develop winning teams at programs that had struggled before his arrival. Most recently he led Campbell Memorial to a playoff berth in 2009.

“When we had a winning season and made the playoffs at Campbell Memorial, I had people tell me I was crazy for taking that on,” Bayuk said. “I can’t explain how rewarding it is to see kids work through a tough situation and get to where they want to get and how proud they are.

“Some of that gets lost. Watching kids work through adversity and getting to the other side is rewarding. I couldn’t be more proud of them and the things they’ve accomplished at those places.”

Bayuk would like nothing more than to enjoy those same feelings at JFK.