Kennedy’s run comes to an end in 14-7 loss to Newark Catholic
ALLIANCE — A journey that began at the end of last season came to a close Saturday night for John F. Kennedy.
Last season’s underclassmen used JFK’s state championship game loss as fuel and motivation for their hard work during the offseason and during the regular season, as they chased another state championship.
But, four turnovers proved to be too much for the Eagles to overcome in their 14-7 loss to Newark Catholic in the Division VII state semifinal.
However, when one door closes, another opens and head coach Dom Prologo hopes that this season’s underclassmen can use this loss as a springboard for next season.
“I certainly hope our seniors take from this day that when they put their mind to something in life, they’re going to be successful — because that’s what they did,” Prologo said. “They made a decision last November to try to get back and if you shoot for the stars and land on the moon, you still did pretty darn good, and these guys did that. I’m really proud of them.”
As both team’s dealt with the less than ideal weather conditions — half an inch of snow blanketed the field at kickoff and continued to accumulate throughout the game — limiting mistakes was going to be key.
But, JFK’s four turnovers killed its chances of getting the points it needed. The Eagles’ only two trips into the red zone both ended in turnovers. The first came on an interception at the end of the first half as JFK hurried to move down the field before halftime, while the second was a fumble that ended JFK’s opening drive of the second half — a drive that featured multiple fourth-down conversions and ate up almost nine minutes of game clock.
“I point it out in every game we play — we have to protect the ball,” Prologo said. “When you turn it over four times, it’s tough to win a ballgame against anybody. That’s a good football team on the other side of the field, so you can’t turn it over four times in a semifinal game.”
After the Green Wave took a 14-0 lead into halftime thanks to two touchdown passes from quarterback Cole Canter, JFK’s defense kept the Eagles in the game in the second half, even with the offense’s turnover struggles.
While the Eagles’ defense wasn’t able to get its own takeaways, it did get Newark Catholic’s offense off the field with a couple turnovers-on-downs and several three-and-outs.
“We made a couple adjustments and changes,” senior lineman Eddie Kiernan said. “I was playing a little more linebacker and we were just plugging gaps and playing a little more physical, who we are — that’s what we didn’t do in the first half.”
JFK’s lone score of the game came late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore quarterback Caleb Hadley completed a 43-yard pass, then found senior Antwan Brown in the end zone on the next play for a 37-yard touchdown pass with 4:30 left.
Despite not being able to recover the ensuing onside kick, JFK’s defense did what it had done the entire second half and forced a three-and-out.
The offense took over with 3:17 left, needing a touchdown to tie the game and force overtime. JFK converted a fourth down, but then their third interception of the game ended the Eagles’ hopes.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we battled all night,” Kiernan said. “I’m very proud of our guys for that. We could have quit in this game and we didn’t. I’m just proud of everything we accomplished. But we didn’t get it done and that stinks and that hurts. But I’m proud of our career at Kennedy and No. 58 out, that’s all I have to say.”