KC seniors

Kennedy Catholic coach John Reay poses with two of his seniors, Elijah Smith (6) and Sean Yeager. Missing from photo: Aiden Churlik, Nick Ondo, and Jermaine Dunlap.

Kennedy Catholic features the smallest roster in the area. But with 14 kids on the roster, the Golden Eagles coach John Reay thinks his team has a better chance at competing in 2022.

Kennedy Catholic went 1-15 over the past two seasons, the first seasons back in football after the program was disbanded following the 2013. Starting back in 2020, the Golden Eagles played in 2A.

After reclassification this summer, the Golden Eagles were dropped to 1A. and Reay said games against similar-sized schools could lead to better success.

However, injuries can always pop up in football. With the limited numbers, the Reay had to make sure everyone on the team knew every position.

“We have about 13 guys – ones the kicker – so we got 12 guys right now that have to know everything,” Reay said. “We have our whole line back from last year, which is good. Most of our guys back from last year are starters. So they know and have experience on the field.”

Former receiver Simeir Wade takes over at quarterback for Rayvion Wilbon-Venable, who threw for 946 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

Wade saw some action under center. He completed 10 of 18 attempts for 196 yards and three touchdowns without and interception. Wade also led the Golden Eagles with 296 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 40 carries.

“He is 1-0 for us at quarterback. Last year he won (18-15 at Lakeview) for us,” Reay said. “He’s going to be a big part of the offense.”

Another receiver will make a position change this season. Sean Yeager will be the primary ball carrier after catching eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown last year.

Jermaine Dunlap and Elijah Smith will be the main targets at receiver. The two will look to replace the production of Blaze Campbell, who will play for the Sharpsville-West Middlesex co-op in 2021 following a 200-yard, four-TD season with KC. Dunlap had 129 yards receiving and one touchdown on 13 receptions, and Smith caught 10 passes for 55 yards with one score.

Junior center Eric Pagan returns to lead the offensive line. Juniors Blaiden Parcetich and Elias Lawson return to the left side of the line. Boardman transfer Rayshawn Wilkerson, a 385-pound sophomore, will play right guard. The right tackle position will be between junior Dominic Haben and Smith.

Due to the lack of depth, the offensive linemen will also play on the defensive front.

Wade and Yeager will play safety for the Golden Eagles while on defense. Nick Ondo, a 6-4 cornerback and outside linebacker, returns after taking off last season. Brock Ondo, Nick’s brother, will play middle linebacker his freshman season.

Senior Aiden Churlik will kick and punt. Lawson will be the long snapper, and Wade and Yeager will handle return duties when needed. But Reay doesn’t want to burn out any of his go-to athletes, so the returns will be taken by different players throughout the season.

Reay only had 14 guys at his disposal last season. While most teams might walk on eggshells, the Kennedy coach said his staff and players are a little more prepared to jump into new roles at any time since they experienced the same issue in 2021.

“Knowing that we did it last year, some games we had 12 players – I mean, we played Wilmington with 11 players,” Reay said. “Last year, we played Wilmington, Farrell, Sharpsville, all these 2A teams and we were able to stick together and finish.

“Now this year, we’re in 1A. We got teams that are on our level. The numbers, yeah, suck for us but I think we can compete with anybody as long as we just stay healthy.”

–––––– KENNEDY CATHOLIC SCHEDULE Aug. 27 – Cambridge Springs*; Sept. 2 – at Union City; Sept. 9 – at Lakeview*; Sept. 17 – at Cochranton*; Sept. 24 – St. John’s Catholic Prep (Md.), 3 p.m.; Oct. 1 – Reynolds*; Oct. 8 – at Mercer*; Oct. 14 – at Maplewood*; Oct. 22 – Saegertown*. (* –denotes Region 1 game).

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