JFK completes 3-peat after late rally | News, Sports, Jobs

Staff Photo / Neel Madhavan Kennedy’s Caleb Hadley sends down a pass during the team’s 22-21 win over Danville on Saturday.

NEW PHILADELPHIA — With 39 seconds remaining on Saturday night, Warren John F. Kennedy faced a decision — one that would ultimately decide the fate of his season.

After scoring an unlikely touchdown, the Eagles were down by one. They could take the extra point and take their chances in overtime, or they could go for two and decide the game on the spot.

JFK head coach Dom Prologo knew what he wanted to do – Eagles strength coach Frankie Tempesta reached out to Prologo and suggested that JFK should fight for the win, but Prologo ultimately decided to let his players make the decision.

Deciding to go all out, JFK starred in one of his bread-and-butter plays — “Blast,” where the Eagles are in I-formation with Aidan Rossi under center as quarterback and Caleb Hadley as a jam.

“Blast is as simple as it gets,” Hadley said. “That was the flavor of the game. The coach asked us what we wanted to do and we said let’s do it. He really is a player’s coach – you couldn’t ask for more. He let us go and we made it.”

Hadley took over the handoff, followed his blockers to the left and crashed into the end zone, where he secured JFK’s third straight Division VII, Region 25 championship with a 22-21 win over Danville.

“For the season ahead, we would be running behind our two older brothers, with our two older full-backs leading the game, and our older quarterback Aidan Rossi would hand the ball over to our junior guy,” Prologo said. “It’s that combination of thunder and lightning. We got the ball in Donner’s hands, ran after our four seniors and that’s why we called. We said if we want to play like that and win, we’ll put it in their hands and I wasn’t shocked that we scored.”

But JFK might not have even had a chance to go for two if there hadn’t been two clutch plays on the preceding touchdown drive.

With 1:40 left, JFK had 3rd-and-22 off the Danville 25-yard line.

Hadley took the shotgun snap and found Rossi for a 12-yard completion. Now it was do or die time as the Eagles stayed on the line with 4ths and 10ths.

“We just had to stay calm and take what they gave us because if you take too much, you can flip it,” Hadley said. “You take what they give you and you live to fight others and then you go from there.”

Hadley took the snap and tried again to buy time. He rolled to the right and threw a ball to the end zone’s front right pylon and found a diving and sliding Rossi for a 13-yard touchdown that made it a one-point play.

“(Rossi) great time on and off the field,” said Hadley. “He and I are best friends and our connection is unlike any other. It’s just a brotherhood – trust your brother and he will play for you.”

All in all it was a back and forth with five lead changes.

JFK struck first in the first quarter with a touchdown run from Hadley, but the Blue Devils responded early in the second quarter, recovering a fumble and returning it 10 yards for a touchdown to level the game.

After a 7-7 tie at the break, Danville started the second half, driving down the field and scoring on a five-yard touchdown run from Max Payne.

An interception by Thomas Easton deep in Danville territory restored some momentum to the Eagles, and four games later they scored on another Hadley touchdown run to move back in front.

However, the Blue Devils weren’t done yet. Payne found Kaiden Colopy on an RPO for a 16-yard touchdown pass with less than six minutes left. A little trick in the two-point conversion followed next and Danville held a seven-point lead until Hadley and Rossi’s late exploits.

Spreading the field, Danville attempted to throw the ball in the first half and succeeded, but in the second half the Blue Devils lined up with Payne taking direct snaps and opted to continue their power run to use game.

“Bottom line, at that point, we had to match their physicality,” Prologo said. “I thought we did other than those two rides. They followed us and we didn’t answer when we needed to answer.

The JFK seniors have now won three regional championships in their four years of high school. But her final season isn’t over yet.

The Eagles now meet Newark Catholic in the Division VII semifinals next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Red Rider Stadium in Orrville. Newark Catholic ended JFK’s season in the state semifinals last year.

“I said (to the seniors) at halftime, I love you guys and I’m not done with you guys,” Prologo said. “Now I need your guidance. You have to go out there and work your ass off and they did. I give Danville all the credit in the world. They came out and did some things in the second half that I didn’t think could do to us and they did. Your children fought hard. But our seniors have invested so much in this program and that investment paid off tonight.”

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