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Playoff hopes all but gone for JFK

October 27, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle (mmclain@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

WARREN - There was still hope for the John F. Kennedy Eagles of making the Division VII playoffs prior to Saturday's game against the Sharpsville (Pa.) Blue Devils.

After about two hours of dealing unsuccessfully with the Devils' potent triple-option offense, those hopes faded into the chilly air.

The Devils literally ran over the Eagles with a ground attack that chewed up yardage in big chunks. Sharpsville finished with 388 rushing yards, including two 100-plus yard performances, in a 35-7 win at Mollenkopf Stadium.

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"They gave us a clinic on the winged-T running game tonight," Eagles coach Dave Pappada said.

The Eagles' record fell to 2-7. The Devils, who have clinched a spot in the Pennsylvania playoff system, are 5-4.

There was an added incentive to the game for JFK, which saw its playoff chances improved noticeably Friday when several teams higher in the Region 23 rankings lost. According to calculations, wins in the final two games for the Eagles would have secured a playoff spot.

"The mathematicians were out and it hit social media that the five teams ahead of us all lost," Pappada said. "We mentioned it to the kids. Obviously you use everything you can to motivate them."

The Devils took away some of that motivation with a quick punch to the gut a six-play, 69-yard drive on their first possession. Tyler Wansack ran the final 4 yards for the touchdown.

The Eagles responded with their lone touchdown on a 57-yard pass from Michael Roscoe to Zach Watt to tie the score at 7-7.

It was all Sharpsville the rest of the game. Relying on the same types of runs, the Devils flooded gaps with multiple lead blockers and opened large holes in the Eagles' defense. Wansack had 140 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and George Keck had 129 yards on 20 carries.

The drive that was most demoralizing to the Eagles came after the Devils were pinned at their 1 following a poor decision to field a punt. Sharpsville proceeded to march 99 yards on 15 plays to score on a 15-yard run by Wansack. The touchdown gave the Devils a 28-7 lead at the 9:51 mark of the fourth quarter.

"That's probably the most physical team we've played," Pappada said. "We knew what they do, and to stop it, that's another thing.

"The one that really hurt was that 99-yard drive where they consumed the clock and kept us off the field offensively. That's how you win football games."

The Devils took a 14-7 lead on a 17-yard run by Ben Bucher with 2:32 remaining in the first quarter. Sharpsville added a 4-yard touchdown by Bucher in the second quarter to extend the lead to 21-7 at halftime.

After a scoreless third period, the Devils sealed the win on Wansack's 15-yard run and a 3-yard scoring run by Bucher.

The Devils had a 388-214 advantage in yards. Roscoe connected on 8-of-13 passes for 130 yards and one interception.

Pappada felt the players were ready for the challenge. The Devils were simply too physical.

"I asked them at halftime if that team was that physical up front or weren't we playing very well," Pappada said. "They said they were pretty physical. They just ran the ball right at us, and we had trouble."

The Eagles conclude the season Saturday at home against Cleveland Central Catholic.