Eagles fly past Lowellville
LIBERTY — An explosion of offense by John F. Kennedy in the second half propelled the Eagles to a 65-33 victory in a Division VII, Region 25 second-round playoff matchup with Lowellville on Friday night.
The game was neck-and-neck for a while as the Kennedy defense adjusted to Rockets quarterback Vinny Ballone.
“We started off a bit slow,” Eagles coach Dom Prologo said. “We had to make some adjustments with what we were doing. That’s a heck of a good quarterback, a good receiving corps. I thought their offensive line played well, and we had to adjust to that a little bit.”
It was Lowellville who struck first, with Ballone hitting Cole Bunofsky on a 28-yard strike.
Kennedy responded later in the quarter with Jesse Likens rushing in on a 7-yard score. The Eagles took the lead with Cameron Hollobaugh rushing in for his first score of the game off a 23-yard run.
Hollobaugh, Kennedy’s ‘Swiss Army Knife,’ was all over the field for the Eagles. The senior finished the game with 40 passing yards, 227 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and a passing TD.
“It’s a good thing he got his CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) because he drove the bus here, and he’s going to drive it back home too,” Prologo said. “I heard at halftime he was selling popcorn, too.”
The Rockets were set to go into the half with a 26-22 lead, but in the final seconds of the second quarter, Hollobaugh connected with senior Gabe Green on a 31-yard pass to rip the lead away going into the locker room. Kennedy has gone into the locker room at half twice this season after a similar situation, so Prologo was glad to be on the other end of things this time.
“We’ve had that happen to us twice the other way this year, and when you get that momentum going into halftime, it really changes things,” he said.
Prologo reminded the Eagles that since it’s the postseason, they needed to keep their foot on the gas and get back to playing their brand of football.
“All I said was, ‘It’s time to play JFK football,’ “ Prologo said.
That JFK football consisted of four second-half touchdowns and holding Lowellville to one score as the Eagles pulled away to get the win.
Hollobaugh had all four of those second-half TDs, withs runs of 5 yards, 34 yards and two 16-yarders.
“I realized that in the first half, we started out kind of slow, we kind of rolled our helmets out there,” Hollobaugh said, “so in the second half, I came out with a lot more intensity and I got the guys gathered up and we all came out with a lot more intensity.”
Ballone had a great game for the Rockets, throwing for 289 yards and five touchdowns on 27 completions.
“He’s exciting to watch,” Lowellville coach Andrew Mamula said. “He makes the engine go, and he’s a special player. These are kids you get every 30 to 40 years at a small school, and you can’t waste their talent.”
Ballone connected nine times with Bunofsky and tallied 159 yards and four touchdowns — including a 60-yard bomb. The only other Rockets touchdown pass went to Anthony Lucente.
With how well Ballone has played, Mamula thinks he can match up with anyone in their league.
“With everyone in the playoffs, we wanted to show everyone how good of a kid he is,” Mamula said. “He’s done it against Springfield, McDonald, JFK. He’s not just beating up on the lower tier teams in our league. He’s doing it against quality competition.”
Kennedy hosts the winner of Southern and Norwalk St. Paul, which is set to be played tonight. The big win against Lowellville is expected to give the Eagles a lot of momentum heading into the third round of the postseason.
“It gives us a lot of motivation moving forward considering we had a bye week last week,” Hollobaugh said. “I’d say we’re right back on pace to where we want to be.”