Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
August 30, 2018
Scoring three touchdowns out of the gates, getting off the field on the money down and taking care of the pigskin, the Kenston gridders knocked the cobwebs off with a 44-14 victory against Streetsboro on Friday night in Bainbridge.
While the Bombers have been hyped up by the media as a top contender in Region 9 before playing a single down this season, their week-one opener against Streetsboro showed flashes of brilliance, as well as maydays of inability, seventh-year head coach Jeff Grubich said.
“People are talking about all the guys we’ve got back, but it’s still your first game – your first-game jitters,” he said. “And, defensively, with the injuries that we’ve had on that side of the ball, we had five, six guys starting in new positions for the first time. So, you get the jitters out, knock the cobwebs off and get used to playing where you’re playing.
“And I think we kind of settled in in the second half. The first half we had flashes of being pretty good, and the next play we looked like we’ve never played football before. So, we’ve got to clean that up.”
Kenston 185-pound senior Matt Iklodi opened the game with a 47-yard kickoff return to help set up junior receiver Jay Middleton’s 28-yard touchdown catch from junior quarterback Jon Tomcufcik for a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. Senior Anna Sanders provided the extra point.
Then, after the Bomber defense stuffed Streetsboro for a loss on a fourth-and-two play from the Rockets’ own 26-yard line, Kenston’s offense was back in business on a short field that opened the door for 185-pound junior running back Jack Porter to score a 1-yard touchdown for a 14-0 upper hand with 6:56 to go in the first quarter.
And, after a Streetsboro three-and-out, Kenston put together a nine-play, 48-yard drive that concluded with Middleton’s second touchdown catch, on a 10-yard pass from Tomcufcik, for a commanding 21-0 lead with 54 seconds to go in the opening act.
“He’s a real good football player,” Grubich said of Middleton, who was getting his first taste of the end zone under the lights. “He showed flashes all summer of what he could be, and then last night he put it together and made some big plays and got to feel what it’s like to be the guy on a Friday night. So, we’re pretty happy with him, and we think he can get a heck of a lot better. So, we’re excited.”
Middleton finished the game with three catches for 77 yards, while junior returner Tyler Mintz had four catches for 40 yards, as well as a 5-yard touchdown run that provided Kenston a 28-0 upper hand with 4:15 to go in the half.
While Mintz is a third-year varsity veteran, he was getting his first start at slotback.
“Once again, there were a couple plays where he looked like he was the dude,” Grubich said. “And then there were a couple plays here and there where it was like, ‘Oh, man, we’ve got a ways to go.’
“So, it’s still the first time you’re under the lights this season, you’re playing for 48 minutes, and it’s full-go, and kids were just still feeling things out and getting used to it. But that feeling process is done. It’s time to go now. It’s time to go. So, we’re looking to make a big jump between week one and week two and make sure this team gets better.”
The Rockets got on the board with a 46-yard touchdown toss from sophomore quarterback Colin Boldin to senior tight end Hank Carey to trim their deficit, 28-7, with 2:24 to go in the half.
But Kenston answered by putting together 51 yards on nine plays to set up junior Blake Torres’ 35-yard field goal for a 31-7 lead as time expired in the half.
Out of the break, Streetsboro strung an 11-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with senior Chris Anderson’s 11-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit, 31-14, with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter.
The Rockets converted a third-down play and a fourth-down play on that drive, but, overall, Streetsboro’s offense was only two-of-11 on third downs when it was all said and done.
“With our overall effort on the defensive side of the ball, I was very happy,” Grubich said. “Unfortunately, we gave up some big plays, which gave Streetsboro a little bit of a spark, but their overall performance, we played well, and, when we had to, we were able to shut them down on the money down. So, we’ve just got to eliminate those big plays.”
Kenston went on to enact a running clock with back-to-back touchdowns, including a 15-yard run by Porter, who finished with 22 carries for 133 yards, and a 10-yard catch by senior receiver Bransen Stanley, who finished with three receptions for 36 yards, to take a 44-14 lead with 4:14 to go in the third quarter – the eventual final.
Meanwhile, Tomcufcik finished the evening 12-of-20 passing for 180 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Settling in, he only needed to tuck the ball once for a 4-yard carry.
Overall, Kenston outgained Streetsboro, 349 yards to 277 yards, but the Bombers had zero turnovers and just five penalties for 46 yards, compared to the Rockets’ one turnover and 13 penalties for 102 yards.
“That’s something that kind of we as a coaching staff here hang our hat on, is we want to be the more disciplined team, and we want to make sure we win the turnover battle every week,” Grubich said. “I mean, we stress it in practice every day. You know, we have an actual turnover competition between the offense and defense every day. So, it’s a huge point of emphasis of us, being disciplined and taking care of the football and taking the football away from the opposing offense.”
Defensively, Kenston 285-pound junior lineman Max Czech was credited with the fumble recovery, as well as five tackles, two for losses, while 205-pound senior linebacker Joe Staudenbaur led the chart with eight tackles.
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