Injuries, numbers plaguing Kennedy | News, Sports, Jobs

Staff photo / Greg Macafee
Warren JFK tailback Jaylen Murray is brought down by a group of Garfield tacklers.

Exactly nine months after playing in the Division VII state title game, the Warren John F. Kennedy High football program has been forced to take a hiatus due to a lack of numbers within the program.

On Saturday, JFK coach Damon Buente and school officials determined that Friday’s scheduled game against Sandusky Perkins would have to be canceled due to mounting injuries.

The game was scheduled to be played in Sandusky.

Kennedy, which entered the season with 29 players on its roster, dressed 25 players last Friday in a 41-3 loss at South Range. Buente said that his team suffered “several significant injuries” against the Raiders.

JFK fell to Garrettsville Garfield 61-26 in week two after opening the season with a win over Champion.

“We ran into a buzzsaw facing Garfield and South Range in back-to-back weeks,” Buente said. “Our kids played incredibly hard Friday night. We had kids who rehabbed all week after getting banged up in the Garfield game step up and play Friday because we needed bodies.

“In the end, we just don’t have enough healthy bodies. We lost two more starting linemen. We had kids playing out of position. The physicality of the last two games has taken a toll. Right now, Emily McCowen, our athletic trainer, is our most valuable asset.”

Perkins fields a roster of 53 players. The Pirates are 3-0 and have outscored their three opponents by a combined 202-47. Perkins opened its season with an 81-0 win over Toledo Woodward. It has since scored 62 and 59 points in its last two games.

Buente said that the decision of not playing this week wasn’t based solely on the scheduled opponent.

“Injuries can happen regardless of the opponent,” Buente said. “We just don’t have the bodies to put out there and compete this week. We would be risking further injuries, and that’s not fair to our players. We’ll spend this week getting healthy, getting back to fundamentals and making practice and this game fun.”

Kennedy is scheduled to return to action Sept. 16 against Marlington (3-0). JFK’s next three opponents are currently a combined 8-1.


Niles coach Jim Parry found himself in a unique situation last week as he prepared his team for its game at LaBrae.

Parry had the Niles grounds crew cut and line the grass practice field behind Bo Rein Stadium. Rather than practice solely on the stadium’s turf field, Parry had his troops practice old school-style.

For the first time since 2018, the Red Dragons were gearing up to play on a grass field. After defeating Edgewood 62-0 in the season-finale of the ’18 season, the Red Dragons had played 40 consecutive games on turf.

Niles defeated the Vikings 34-0.

“It’s funny, back in the day teams who were getting ready to play on turf for the first time would go to YSU and practice just to get acclimated to the playing surface,” Parry said. “Now we’re at a point where turf is so commonplace you have to adjust when playing on grass.”

Parry said that his biggest concern was getting his kicking team acclimated to grass. He also noted that he believes it is an easier adjustment to go from playing on turf to grass than it is from grass to turf.

“The footing can be tricky on turf if it’s your first time on the surface,” Parry said. “My biggest concern was the weather. On turf, you can have the biggest downpour ever, and twenty minutes later you would have never known it rained. On grass, it’s a whole different scenario. We were fortunate in that it was dry throughout the week and on the night of the game.”

While some of the players wore shoes with slightly longer cleats, most wore the same shoes they use throughout the rest of the season.

“We didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. We didn’t want to put it in their heads that there was a huge difference, because it’s not really that big of an issue,” Parry said.

Parry, who graduated from Niles in 1990, said he never played on turf in high school. He remembers practicing at YSU “during the summer, as a treat.”

Niles will return to turf Friday when it hosts Hubbard.


With three weeks of games in the books, the season kicks into a new gear Friday with the start of conference play for a large majority of area schools.

The Northeast-8 Conference heads into league play with every one of its teams owning a winning record. NE-8 schools are a combined 17-4, including 3-0 starts by Poland, Lakeview and Hubbard.

Lakeview will get a stern test to open league play. The Bulldogs host South Range (2-1), which has won three consecutive conference titles. Poland has to wait a week to begin league play, as it hosts non-conference rival Canfield. Hubbard travels to Niles (2-1).

The Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference Scarlet Tier also boasts a 17-4 out-of-conference record. Jackson-Milton, Lowellville, McDonald and Mineral Ridge are all 3-0.

Springfield (1-2) is the only school with a non-winning record.

The number of Scarlet Tier unbeatens will be reduced by at least one this week, as Jackson-Milton visits Mineral Ridge.

Defending Scarlet Tier champion Lowellville will have to wait a week to begin defense of its title. The Rockets visit non-conference foe Mathews.

On the flipside, MVAC Grey Tier schools have struggled to a combined 8-16 record in non-conference play. Garfield (3-0) and Newton Falls (2-1) are the only two schools with winning records.

Garfield begins defense of its league title with a road game at LaBrae (1-2).

Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference schools have also struggled to a combined 8-16 record out of the gate. Valley Christian, 6-0 in league play a year ago, opens with a trip to Leetonia.

Ursuline (3-0) looks to remain perfect when it visits Youngstown East (1-2) in the lid-lifter of Steel Valley Conference play. The Irish won’t face their other two SVC foes until the end of the season. They play Chaney in week nine, then close the regular season against archrival Cardinal Mooney.

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