LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – Last December, the Lowellville school board officially named Andrew Mamula as the Rockets’ new head football coach.
“It was never a dream of mine to be a head coach,” Mamula said. “That was never kinda my role or my desire.”
His mindset changed when the head coaching job opened at his alma mater.
“When this job opened up, I felt a calling to it,” Mamula said. “It’s great to be back on the field. It feels like I never left. I feel like a kid in high school in my senior year, that’s how much excitement I have. So, I’m really enjoying every minute of it.”
The Rockets posted a record of 6-4 last fall, narrowly missing out on a trip to the postseason by just one game.
“They’re used to winning, and that’s something that we haven’t had here for a long time, probably since my class came through in 2003 when we graduated,” Mamula added. “It’s good to have some expectations here. We’re not coming in where we’re trying to rebuild from the ground up. There’s a base in place, we’ve just gotta kinda put the finishing touches on it.”
Lowellville returns four of the five starters on an offensive line that is anchored by Francisco Rivera-Ocasio.
The Rockets are likewise loaded with skill. Sophomore quarterback Vinny Ballone is back. The dual-threat completed 64% of his passes for 771 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions in five games last season.
“The sky’s the limit with him,” Mamula revealed. “As a sophomore, with his size and his intangibles, it makes my job a lot easier, I’ll tell you that much.”
Ballone enters his second high school season with plenty of confidence.
“I can pass the ball or run the ball on any given play,” he said. “It helps the team to be able to throw the deep ball and the short ball and everything. I can run the ball when the pass rush is coming, and everything like that.”
Ballone has plenty of help. Cole and Brady Bunofsky serve as playmakers on the outside, bringing great size and speed to the Rockets’ attack.
“We hope to create some mismatches and get the ball in their hands so they can make plays because when they’re in space, they make some great plays,” Mamula said.
Lowellville’s goal this fall is to close the gap with Valley powers like Springfield, McDonald and Western Reserve.
“Anything less than a winning record and a playoff appearance is looked at as a failure here,” Mamula admitted. “The parents and players have expectations, and I have those expectations. That’s our goal. Our goal is to make the playoffs and play in week 11.
Lowellville is slated to kick off the 2020 season at home against Plymouth.