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QB battle

JFK defense has challenge in New Bremen QB

WARREN — It’s obvious that John F. Kennedy coach Dom Prologo is a college football fan, as he often compares his Eagles, and their opponents, to famous NCAA players.

So, as JFK prepares to face New Bremen in the Division VII state championship at 2 p.m. Friday at Fortress Obetz, Prologo came up with another comparison.

It starts with a quarterback battle: JFK’s Cam Hollobaugh and the Cardinals’ Mitchell Hays. Or, in the eyes of Prologo, it’s former University of Florida QB Tim Tebow (Hollobaugh) vs. former Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel (Hays).

“He’s a tremendous player, their quarterback,” Prologo said of Hays. “… He’s a challenge. He’s 5-foot-11, he’s 170 pounds, and the way he plays with his feet — he kind of has a little reckless abandon — because stuff will break down, he’ll be going one way and then turn the other way. He’s like a Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M.”

Notice he didn’t say Johnny Manziel from the Cleveland Browns. This is the good version of Manziel, but JFK hopes to make him look like the one who had a comical NFL career.

Thus far, that hasn’t been the case. Hays, a senior, is carrying New Bremen into the state title game, completing 90-of-161 passes for 1,252 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also leads the Cardinals with 893 rushing yards and 14 TDs.

Hollobaugh has been nearly unstoppable most of the year but even more so in the postseason. The last two weeks, has accumulated 242 rushing yards and five of JFK’s six TDs. Prologo, an avid Florida Gators fan, has repeatedly compared Hollobaugh to Tebow — a two-time national champion for Florida — because of his competitiveness.

“I’m a huge Florida Gators fan, so when I compare him to Tim Tebow, that’s about the highest praise you’re going to get from me as a player,” Prologo said. “And he is, he’s our Tim Tebow. He plays with that, ‘You’re going to have to kill me to beat me’ attitude.”

Both JFK (9-2) and New Bremen boast much more than star quarterbacks, however.

Prologo said Cardinals wide receiver Dan Homan is “as good as we’ve seen this year.” He did not, however, offer a college comparison for the 6-2, 180-pound senior, who has team highs in receptions (30), receiving yards (558) and touchdowns (7). Running back Zach Bertke (5-11, 175) has rushed for 581 yards and five TDs on 120 carries. Prologo said Bertke was injured in last week’s game, so he’s unsure if the senior will play.

The Cardinals, who run a spread style of offense,are part of the vaunted Midwest Athletic Conference, which has won 16 state championships since 2010. Prologo said New Bremen, making just its fourth ever playoff appearance,was on the verge of leaving the conference a few years ago and also considered dropping the football program altogether.

“They made a decision to not do anything,” Prologo said. “They built a separate building that has a weight facility in it. They hired a coach, and now here they are, four to five years later, and they’re playing for a title. It’s kind of a neat story they’ve got going on too.”

JFK’s history is quite different.

The Eagles have made 25 total playoff appearances and are playing for their third state title (they have three runner-up trophies). This would be JFK’s second championship in the last five years as it beat Minster — also part of the MAC — in 2016.

Hollobaugh said this year’s team entered the season with state championshipexpectations. Not only is it part of JFK’s tradition, it’s what the Eagles have worked for since 2019ended with a regional semifinal loss to Cuyahoga Heights.

“Our goal wasn’t to make it to the state championship. All along, our goal was to win the state championship,” Hollobaugh said. “We worked really hard in the offseason to get better — to get the state championship. If we don’t get it, we think, ‘How can we get better? How can we improve?’ My last three years, that’s what it’s been like because we haven’t made it this far.

“Our hard work and dedication to that goal is paying off, and we’reseeing thatwe deserve to be here.”

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