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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

JFK Bears Look to Reload in 2018

It’s still ‘Always Black & Gold’ for coach Jeff Sabatino’s John F. Kennedy Bears after losing twenty-two seniors to graduation and looking at a year when the team will be primarily focused on developing and preparing athletes to compete at the varsity level.

The Bears (2-2 Class C North, 3-7 Overall in 2017) lost quarterback James Bailey (1537 pass yards, 264 rush yards, 17 TD’s) and top receiver Jordan Snyder (34 rec., 565 yards, 8 TD’s) to graduation. The teams’ leading tackler Sean McGee (68 total tackles, 3 sacks) also graduated this spring. Only three starters on offense and defense from last season return for the 2018 campaign.

“We are young, so our first goal and priority is to develop into a varsity football team,” stated Coach Sabatino on his team’s youth heading into the fall season. “We have to find guys to step up and fill the roles from last year.”

After dropping the first game of the season last fall, the Bears stormed back to a 3-1 record. However, the Bears would drop the final six games of the season after that.

Coach Sabatino will look to senior running back Zach Manzella to carry most of the load out of the backfield and to senior offensive and defensive lineman Scott Prell to lead in the trenches. Senior offensive and defensive linemen Andy Celgielski and Darell Dabney will also see bigger roles perhaps as two way starters going into their final high school season.

Some up-and-comers to look out for are juniors Jax Lighten (QB, DB), Jamal Huff (WB, S), Estaban Cruz (FB, DE) and sophomore Santino Armini (RB, DB). Expect Lighten to start under center week one against Akron.

“I’m excited about this group” stated Sabatino on the wealth of young talent moving up to varsity. “We’re young. There’s a huge learning curve and I’d like to see how that works out.”

Sabatino is going into this 20th year with the JFK football program, and his 4th as the Bear’s head coach.

With the new league alignments throughout the Section, the new Class C North league consists of Akron, Royalton-Hartland, Gowanda/Pine Valley, Cleveland Hill, Wilson, JFK, and Silver Creek/Forestville. League opponents will now have six games against one another, versus only four from a year ago.

JFK opens up against Akron at home on Saturday, September 1st at 1pm.

Sabatino said “Akron is well coached, they do a good job, and come ready to play. We’ve got to grow up fast and hopefully if we do grow up fast it should be a good game.”

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