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JFK can’t hang on to lead, miss playoffs

November 3, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle (mmclain@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

WARREN - For reasons only a computer system knows, the John F. Kennedy Eagles still had a chance to qualify for the Division VII playoffs entering Saturday's game against the Cleveland Central Catholic Ironmen.

A win would have added enough computer points to JFK's total to vault it from 13th into the top eight of Region 23, despite what would have been a 3-7 record. It seemed illogical, but you never know what to expect when the human element is removed from the equation.

For most of four quarters it appeared the Eagles just might live to fight another week. The Ironmen, however, scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in rallying for a 28-20 North Coast Conference win at Mollenkopf Stadium.

"We knew we had a tough schedule but we never thought 3-7 would be good enough to go to the playoffs," Eagles junior quarterback Michael Roscoe said. "It was a huge surprise when we found that out this week."

Buoyed by the good news, the Eagles (2-8 and 1-3 in the NCL) had reason to do more than go through the motions of a season finale. JFK showed a noticeable jump in its step at the outset, which produced an 11-play, 89-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard pass from Roscoe to Austin Munno.

The momentum continued to build on the side of the Eagles when a high punt snap on the Ironmen's ensuing possession flew over the head of punter Brandon Brown. Brown was penalized for intentional grounding trying to throw a desperate pass, turning possession over to the Eagles at the Ironmen's 7.

Two players later Dimaje Clinkscale ran 3 yards for a touchdown. Eric Bofenkamp's extra-point kick extended the lead to 14-0.

At the same time the Eagles' defense was doing its job as Joe Campana ended an Ironmen threat with an interception in the end zone. Things started to swing in favor of the Ironmen when they drove 75 yards on 10 plays to score on a 1-yard run by Davon Robinson in the second period. The pass for the extra two points failed.

The Ironmen (8-2 and 4-0 in the NCL) tied the score at 14-14 early in the third quarter on a 28-yard run by quarterback Desmond Lundy and the conversion run by Robinson. After the Eagles regained the lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Carl Zallow, the Ironmen took a 22-20 lead on a 4-yard run by Curtis Parks. Parks tacked on a 13-yard scoring run in the final minute.

The clinching drive covered 66 yards on nine plays. The possession started after Roscoe threw incompletions on third-and-4 and fourth-and-4 at the Ironmen's 34.

"They're no-quit kids," Eagles coach Dave Pappada said of his players. "We told them before the game there was a possibility that we had a chance of getting into the playoffs, and you have to use everything you can to motivate kids. They were ready to play the game, but we just fell short."

It wasn't the season the Eagles had envisioned last summer. They were hit with key injuries, while also running into several quality opponents.

"Our expectations were really high for this team," Roscoe said. "Coming back from last year, we thought we could repeat that (playoff berth). We were able to keep positive about the whole season, which is a hard thing to do."

The Ironmen pounded out 378 rushing yards, including 131 by Joe Flynn and 116 by Jo'vante Robinson before exiting in the third quarter with a lower-leg injury. Zallow had 108 rushing yards for the Eagles.

"We're all disappointed," Pappada said. "This is a great program. Ending up 2-8; that's not the way it's supposed to be here. Everybody has a responsibility to look at the whole thing and see what we can do to change things around."