Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
October 19, 2017
On the Bomber gridders’ second drive of the game, Kenston sophomore running back Jack Porter finished off a 75-yard march with a 9-yard touchdown run to provide a 6-0 lead against Madison on Friday night in Bainbridge.
The host Bombers were favored, but it was a must-need win in both the Western Reserve Conference hunt, as well as the playoff picture.
“I think our kids might have laid back a little bit and just thought it was going to be that easy,” Kenston sixth-year head coach Jeff Grubich said. “And, you know, with a team like Madison, who hangs their hat on just running the ball and being very physical, there was kind of a wakeup call that had to happen in the second quarter.”
The visiting Blue Streaks entered the contest at 2-5, with only one win in league play, but they were able to capitalize twice off Kenston turnovers in the first half.
First, Madison collected an interception to take over on a 25-yard field, opening the door for Manny Dominguez’s 30-yard field goal to cut the Blue Streaks’ deficit, 6-3, with 1:04 remaining in the opening stanza.
Madison then recovered its own punt that hit off a Kenston flanker’s leg on the fly for a 33-yard field. Six plays later, the Blue Streaks took a 10-6 lead on an 8-yard touchdown run by senior Ken Cline with 3:36 remaining in the half.
“Madison punted the football, and our corner that was defending one of Madison’s bombers, you know, one of the flankers on the punt team, was chasing him down the field, had his back turned on the play and the ball hit him on the fly in the back of his leg,” Grubich said.
“So, I mean, he never even saw the ball coming,” the coach said. “It’s just one of those things that you can’t be mad at the kid. You know, Madison just had a little more luck on that play, and they were able to punch it in off of that one.”
Before the half, Kenston responded on a seven-play, 71-yard drive that concluded with Porter’s 14-yard touchdown run for a 13-10 Bomber lead at intermission. A 21-yard completion from sophomore quarterback Jon Tomcufcik to sophomore receiver Tyler Mintz helped move that march along.
“Yeah, we were able to move the ball,” Grubich said. “When we got it back, I told those guys on the offensive side of the ball that it’d be nice to punch one in, and they did an excellent job of making sure that the right plays were called to take advantage of the clock, and that’s a credit to the offensive staff and the players that they were able to execute to get one in before halftime.”
Kenston flipped the script by forcing three turnovers in the third quarter to take control of the game, including a fumble recovery by senior Kee-shaun Merrill and pair of interceptions by senior linebacker Matt Iklodi.
Iklodi returned his first interception to the bank for what he thought was a pick six, but an illegal block in the back had the play coming back.
“So, he got six points taken off the board, and he was pretty upset about that,” Grubich said. “But we finally started firing on all three cylinders. The offense started clicking, the defense started clicking, and our special teams were clicking. So, when that happens, I like our chances against just about anybody.”
Capitalizing on those turnovers, running back Porter scored on a 17-yard touchdown run for a 20-10 lead, and then he busted loose on a 46-yard touchdown run for a 27-10 lead with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter.
The sophomore ball carrier finished with 23 rushes for 193 yards and five touchdowns, as well as two catches for 29 yards, when it was all said and done.
“I think it goes back to the offensive philosophy that we have – we’ll take whatever the defense is giving us,” Grubich said. “Last week against Riverside, we were able to throw for a ton of yards, and we were able to expose our playmakers out on the perimeter.
“This week, we threw a couple of deep balls and realized Madison said there was no way we were going to go deep on them. They were forcing us to run the ball, and Jack and the O-line were able to get the job done.”
Nonetheless, Tomcufcik still completed 16 of 22 passes for 200 yards against Madison, with Mintz collecting five catches for 108 yards and senior Austin Safko hauling in four for 23 yards.
Porter scored his fifth touchdown on a 6-yard carry for a 34-10 lead with 5:15 to play, and then senior Bransen Stanley hammered the nails in with a 37-yard interception to the bank for a 41-10 upper hand with 4:44 to play, which held up for the final.
With the win, Kenston improved to 6-2 with a 3-2 mark in the WRC. Up next, the Bombers will be on the road for a battle against Chardon (6-2, 4-1) a 7 p.m. Friday. Chardon and Brush lead the WRC with one loss apiece.
“It’s another big game,” Grubich said. “There’s no down week, and this game is actually why you do all of the extra sprints in the summertime and you do all of the extra lifting sessions and everything like that.
“You know, it’s got a conference championship on the line, it’s got playoff points on the line, and it’s one of your last two games of the year. So, it doesn’t really get any better than that, and you play and you coach for these reasons. So, it’s going to be a great Friday night.”