WARREN - In the first three weeks of the season the John F. Kennedy Eagles survived by walking the edge.
Since then it's been much less risky for the Eagles, who increased their record to 7-1 Saturday with a 36-6 North Coast League win over the Garfield Heights Trinity Trojans at Mollenkopf Stadium.
JFK won its first three games by a total of 18 points. Since then the Eagles have won four of the next five games by a combined 102 points.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
John F. Kennedy’s Carl Zallow (22) hits the ball out of the hands of Trinity’s Brett Dawson (27) in the corner of the end zone during a two-point conversion attempt.
Although the Trojans showed a feisty streak in the first half to trail, 10-6, they were no match for the Eagles in the second half. JFK scored on its first three possessions of the half and added a fourth touchdown on an 82-yard interception return by Robert Seger.
"We came out pretty flat," Seger said. "We went into the locker room and told them we had to step it up offensively. We listened to coach. That's what we have to do."
Eagles coach Dave Pappada isn't the type that yells to get his message across. In fact, he's more than willing to listen to and implement changes suggested by the players.
"We were very calm," Pappada said of the scene in the locker room at halftime. "We sat down with our offensive line and we sat down with our secondary and went over our nickel package with them.
"We didn't get all over them. We've done that in the past and sometimes you've got to do that, but these are intelligent kids. As a matter of fact, a few of them made suggestions to me as far as what they thought would work. That helps."
One of the suggestions was to insert a tight end and go with the "deuce" (two-back) formation instead of the spread. The Eagles (3-0 in the NCL) were able to wear down the Trojans with a barrage of runs. Alec Rossi and quarterback Dominic Naples had 50 yards each as JFK garnered 187 on the ground.
"We look at what's working," Pappada said. "We don't look at how many carries kids have. Kids are kind of unselfish. That's a tribute to them, and that's why we're a decent football team."
Eric Bofenkamp kicked a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead. The Trojans (3-5 and 1-2 in the NCL) then put together a nine-play, 75-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead on a 1-yard run by quarterback Matt Iacobucci. The pass for the extra two points was unsuccessful.
JFK answered with a seven-play, 78-yard drive to score on a 2-yard run by Rossi. Naples connected with John Hilty for 19 yards and Rossi on a screen for 28 yards on the march.
The Eagles opened the third quarter with a six-play, 59-yard drive that produced a 37-yard touchdown pass from Naples to Mark Fordeley. Seger scored on a 7-yard run later in the quarter as the lead expanded to 23-6.
Naples ran 2 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the fourth period to give JFK a 30-6 lead. The Trojans then marched to the Eagles' 22 on 13 plays when Iacobucci overthrew a receiver in the right flat. Seger stayed in his zone and was in place for the interception. It was then a foot race to the end zone, and no one was catching Seger.
"I just sat in my area and waited for the ball to come and that was it," Seger said. "It (an open field) is the best sight."
JFK hosts Bedford St. Peter Chanel Saturday.