Published in The Plain Dealer
November 30, 2018
CANTON, Ohio – Kenston entered the 2018 season never having won a football state championship.
The Bombers will open the 2019 season as the defending state champions after a 42-6 win over Kettering Archbishop Alter in the Division III state title game Friday afternoon at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“I’m just proud of these guys, this team, these coaches,” Kenston coach Jeff Grubich said. “I understand how hard it is to do this, it’s a 15-week grind. To be able to finish means a lot.”
Kenston (14-1) scored 42 unanswered points after falling behind 6-0 halfway through the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Jon Tomcufcik threw three touchdown passes, with the first being to Bransen Stanley on the drive immediately following the Alter touchdown. The 13-yard touchdown pass capped an 11-play, 70-yard response drive.
“It was big because we were down and they had momentum,” Tomcufcik said. said. “When we scored that touchdown, it gave us the momentum and it was just awesome from then.”
The Bombers then showed the ability to score in a hurry.
Following a punt on the next Alter possession, Kenston junior running back Jack Porter took a handoff 58 yards for a touchdown on the second play for the Bombers for a 14-6 lead.
Two possessions later, Kenston’s defense came up with a turnover when Stanley intercepted a pass at the Alter 40. The Bombers went for the quick strike after a sudden change, and Tomcufcik hit Stanley for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play.
“That was just execution and I trusted in my technique,” Stanley said. “Catching the ball is my number one job as a wideout.”
Leading 21-6 to begin the second half, Kenston forced another punt on Alter’s first possession in the third quarter. The offense took advantage, as Tomcufcik found Tyler Mintz for a 16-yard touchdown on 4th-and-6.
Porter added a pair of 11-yard touchdown runs to make it 42-6. He finished the game with 116 yards rushing on 20 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Tomcufcik finished with 285 yards passing on 16-of-23 passing.
“You want to be a smart coach and if they are going to pack the box, we ain’t going to run into that,” Grubich said. “Our offensive guys have always taken what defenses have given us and if they’re going to tell us we have to throw it, we are going to throw the ball.”
Jay Middleton caught six passes for 123 yards, Mintz had 78 yards on four receptions and Stanley added 71 yards on four catches for the Kenston offense. Mintz and Stanley also had an interception each defensively.
“I think we have the best receiver staff in the state of Ohio and it is just awesome throwing to those guys,” Tomcufcik said. “They are straight up playmakers and they make plays all over the field.”
After the first touchdown scored by Kenston, senior kicker Anna Sanders kicked the PAT, becoming the first female to score a point in an OHSAA state championship game.
“That’s awesome,” Grubich said. “Last year when we had the kicker go down and the backup kicker go down, our kicking coach said she is going to do it and he has done a great job getting her ready to go. I’m just proud.”
Kenston had advanced to the state championship game two other times in school history, but finished as the runner-up in both 1986 and 1995.
“(It’s) everything, everything we have all been dreaming of,” senior linebacker Matt Iklodi said. “We have all been playing together since second and third grade and we have said we are going to do this, believing in this and working for it and that’s what happened.”
Ryan Isley is a freelancer from Akron