LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – Andrew Mamula’s first year as the head football coach at his alma mater Lowellville was unique thanks to the pandemic.
“This is almost like year 1 1/2 for us,” Mamula said. “Year 1A. It almost felt like last year, it was just kinda a training year, which was good as a first-year head coach. That’s kinda the way I looked at it. You kinda get this buffer year to kinda see what works and what doesn’t work.”
What worked well was the offense. The Rockets lit up the scoreboard, averaging nearly 30 points per game, which was their highest scoring output in 18 years.
Leading the way is quarterback Vinny Ballone. He tossed for over 2,400 yards and 34 touchdowns last year. Ballone also led the Rockets with nearly 400 yards on the ground.
“It was the deep ball, the vertical ball, and the touch he can put on it, that was the thing that we didn’t know,” Mamula said. “Early in the season, we were unsure of. But by the end, that’s something that is a game-changer for us. So, that’s something that we’re gonna focus on.”
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger so that I can throw the deep ball better,” Ballone admitted. “More accuracy. It’s better this year than years before. It’s great. A good line up front keeps me safe. I plant back there and throw.”
Also returning to the mix is Ballone’s favorite target, junior wide receiver Brady Bunofsky. He fell just 16 yards shy of 1,000 last fall.
“He’s a physical receiver,” Mamula explained. “He’s a fullback that’s in a receiver’s body, that can run like a receiver. But he wants to be a fullback. He wants to find contact.”
“I’m not the fastest, but I’ve got pretty good speed,” Bunofsky said. “And really, my run after the catch is where I get most of my yards.”
Over the past 17 years, Lowellville has posted just two winning seasons. It’s a trend the Rockets hope to change this fall.
“I think it could be the best Lowellville team that we’ve seen in a while,” Bunofsky predicted.
“We should have the best team that we’ve ever had,” Ballone added with a smile.
“If we can force turnovers and we can keep hold of the ball, we can be very good. We can compete with some of the best teams in our league,” Mamula added.
Lowellville will kick off the season on Friday, August 20 on the road at Columbiana.