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Week 3 recap: Birds fly high; turf takeover

The John F. Kennedy Eagles haven’t missed a beat under first-year head coach Dom Prologo.

Prologo, who took over the Kennedy program in February following the resignation of Jeff Bayuk, has the Eagles at 3-0 following a 6-0 win over Conneaut.

JFK also has wins this year over Warrensville Heights and St. Thomas Aquinas.

“Two things worked in my favor,” Prologo said of his fast start. “There is great leadership in this program from the veteran players. They are tremendous when it comes to setting an example for how things should be done. They deserve a ton of credit.

“Secondly, coach Bayuk set the foundation for 2020. I’m blessed. Most first-year head coaches walk into a rebuilding situation. I started with both feet on the ground because of what Jeff was able to do here. His commitment to this program still plays a huge role as we move forward.”

Prologo says that a business-as-usual approach during the summer months also helped prepare his squad for a fast start.

“All through June and July, we stressed to our kids that we were gearing up to play on August 28,” Prologo said. “There was so much uncertainty. There was so much talk about COVID and about what might happen. We blocked all of that out, and we focused no differently than we did any other season.

“Again, our leadership was outstanding. Our participation during voluntary workouts was 96 percent. When we started going strong in July and August, everyone was on the same page.”

Kennedy will look to extend its record to 4-0 Friday when it travels to Garrettsville to battle Garfield (3-0).

BIRDS ARE FLYING HIGH

Kennedy isn’t the only flock of Eagles soaring high in 2020. The Hubbard Eagles and the United Golden Eagles also are 3-0. In fact, the eight schools that are represented by bird nicknames are a combined 20-4.

Austintown Fitch (Falcons), Canfield (Cardinals) and Jackson-Milton (Blue Jays) are also 3-0. Cardinal Mooney (Cardinals) and Valley Christian (Eagles) are 1-2.

Other undefeated area schools include Leetonia, South Range, Springfield, West Branch, Garfield and Pymatuning Valley.

Lakeview, Southington, Newton Falls, Lisbon, East Palestine, Chaney, East, Sebring, Windham and Grand Valley are all looking for their first win.

TOTAL TURF

For the first time ever, more high school football teams in the Mahoning Valley play their home games on artificial turf than on natural grass.

This year, a pair of Columbiana County schools installed turf during the offseason. Beaver Local christened its new turf last Thursday with a 49-0 win over Wintersville Indian Creek. A week earlier, Crestview played for the first time on its new field. The result was a 59-0 win over Campbell.

Of the 45 football programs in Trumbull, Columbiana and Mahoning Counties, 24 now play their home games on artificial turf.

“Playing that first game on the turf, it was a great moment for the kids and for the entire community,” Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. “You could just see the excitement in our players’ eyes. This was a long time coming, and the entire community really stepped up to make it happen.”

Cusick noted that a turf proposal was first presented nearly 10 years ago. The process was put on hold for a few years while the district pushed for a school levy.

“Once the levy was passed, we felt the time was right to move forward, and the community responded,” Cusick said. “The thing is, turf used to be viewed as a luxury. Now it’s almost become a necessity for a lot of districts. It saves money and greatly benefits so many students.

“This isn’t just about football. Our band can use the field, the baseball team and cheerleaders will use it for practice. The soccer program will benefit. We’ll even use the field for recess.”

Warren’s Mollenkopf Stadium was the first area high school stadium to be equipped with turf. The turf was originally installed in 2005. It was replaced in 2016.

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