Hard-hitting Hadley powering Kennedy

In today’s world, where old-school approaches are often frowned upon and rarely practiced in the game of football, Isaac Hadley holds onto them like one of his jarring tackles.

The John F. Kennedy linebacker prefers a brand of football that centers around “3 yards and a cloud of dust” and hard hits over spread offenses and 50-point games.

It’s a concept that fits in well with coach Jeff Bayuk and the Eagles.

“Everyone tries to do spread offenses and more finesse, and back in the day, it was all power,” said Hadley, explaining the differences from traditional football to the modern-day style. “This year, we have a team that can go straight power, and I’m kind of excited for that. I view it as, back in the day, it was hard-nosed, downhill football. Most teams are trying to get away from that a little bit, but I think with our team, that’s going to be a big role this year.”

Hadley’s role will be one of the biggest.

The two-way starter — and son of 1993 Trumbull County Player of the Year, Mark Hadley — will be heavily relied upon on both sides of the ball, and he’ll be taking on new challenges. On offense, he’ll see more carries than before as he becomes more of the featured running back. With a hefty and experienced offensive line, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Hadley, who ran for more than 500 yards last year, will gladly take on the ground-and-pound style.

“I just like to run people over,” he said. “That’s kind of fun to do.”

He’ll try and deliver the blows on the other side of the ball.

While he’s dominated as a defensive end for the last two years (including being a starter on the 2016 state championship team), Hadley is transitioning to linebacker as a senior.

Bayuk said the move was “out of necessity” as a young JFK team tries to reach the playoffs for a fourth-straight year.

“Plus he’s a really smart kid, and obviously he has a lot of savvy,” said Bayuk, pointing out that necessity wasn’t the only reason for the change. “He comes from a football family. He’s been around the game his whole life, so he understands the game.”

Aside from also being one of the strongest kids on the team (Bayuk said Hadley benches around 320 pounds), he possesses characteristics other players cannot.

He said Hadley and fellow captain Alex Hernandez, also a soon-to-be three-year starter, learned a lot from the seniors of the 2016 state championship team, and they try to convey those attributes to this year’s group.

As one of just five seniors, Bayuk said he appreciates everything Hadley and Hernandez have to offer.

“He’s very unassuming,” Bayuk said of Hadley. “He’s not cocky. He’s not about how many touches he gets. He’s just about whatever we need him to do. That’s refreshing also because in this day and age, all people care about are their touches, and that gets pretty old after a while.

“He doesn’t care. He’ll block or do whatever he has to do for the team.”

His toughness doesn’t go overlooked either.

Bayuk compared him to recently graduated running back/linebacker Evan Boyd, a gritty player who helped the Eagles win their state title. Bayuk said his attitude, style and experience in a variety of sports carries over to the rest of the team.

“Whenever you’re around the game as much as he’s been around the game, and in competitive situations like baseball and all of the experiences he’s had, you kind of pick up things without even trying,” Bayuk said. “They just become second nature. He just has a lot of the intangibles that you can’t coach just because he’s assimilated it over the years.

“The kids respect him because they see how hard he works and how he acts in school and how he carries himself,” Bayuk later added. “He’s a good role model for the rest of our kids.”

It’s an old-school method that could help the Eagles continue the winning ways of their past.

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