Published in The Geauga County Maple Leaf
December 1, 2018
Beating Kettering Archbishop Alter 42-6, the Kenston Bombers have captured a Division III state championship. It was the matchup of a playoff juggernaut and a team making its first playoff appearance in five years.
It was the matchup of a playoff juggernaut and a team making its first playoff appearance in five years.
And yet it surprised nobody in Geauga County when he Kenston Bombers dismantled Ketting Archbishop Alter 42-6 in a game played at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Alter Knights made their 18thconsecutive playoff appearance and 24thoverall.
The Bombers, who hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2014, made their 10thappearance in school history.
With title losses in 1986 and 1995, many parents and fans supporting Kenston remembered well opportunities just lost.
“I’m just so proud of all of our kids and our coaches,” coach Jeff Grubich said in the post-game conference. “Did you see how many people we had in the stands today? Getting here has been our goal for seven years now. Being able to finish the job is what we wanted. We even had some alumni coming in on Thursday to talk with the kids for motivation. It’s just been a total effort from the entire community, and you media guys have been a big help, too.”
It started how some would have expected — with an Alter touchdown.
Connor Bazelak, a Division I Missouri recruit for next year, found Derek Willits from 19 yards out with just under six minutes gone in the game.
There didn’t seem to be much that could stop their high-powered offense. Yet the Bombers had other ideas, and as a result, a second state championship resides in Geauga County, joining a Chardon Hilltoppers win in 1994.
The game didn’t start out like a title game. Kenston quarterback Jon Tomcufcik was stripped of the ball on his team’s first play. Tyler Mintz returned the favor with an interception, the first of three for Kenston, on Alter’s third play.
After the Willitts touchdown, Kenston quarterback Tomcufcik found Bransen Stanley on a slant route from the left from 14 yards out to cap a 70-yard, 11-play drive.
On a first down play on the first play of the second quarter, tailback Jack Porter, the object of the Alter defense all day, took a pitchout to the right. Alex Robarge and Justin Schroeder crossed each other’s paths to block, and Porter didn’t have anybody get close. He dashed, untouched, 58 yards to open a 13-6 lead for Kenston.
In providing Kenston’s first state title, another, possibly more long-range history also came into play.
After Stanley’s score, Anna Sanders became the first female in Ohio history to score a point in football in a title game. She added five more to answer any doubt as to the legitimacy of her feat, all solidly booted.
Tomcufcik found Stanley for a second time in the second period from 40 yards out, and Sanders made it 21-6 at the half. Clearly Alter was having problems dealing with the Bombers’ size.
Alter had only 48 yards on the ground in the first half.
After opening the second half by holding Alter to a three-and-out to start things off, Tomcufcik found Mintz from 16 yards away to cap a nine-play, 59-yard drive, and the air could almost be seen leaving the Knights’ side of the field with only 7:10 to play in the third period.
Porter scored his second touchdown from 11 yards out by breaking several tackles along the way, his normal outing with the ball, and he closed out the day’s events with his third score from 11 yards out, again, in the fourth period.
Sanders kept folks amazed by booting each try through the uprights. Although she missed wide right on a field goal, her six extra points were all solidly propelled, providing inspiration for young women of the future.
Stanley later shared his feelings.
“I got that first touchdown on a sluggo play we have,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of using if a lot, but winning this title is something else we’ve all dreamed of for years.”
Porter was proud, but also dealt with the reality of this being his last game with these teammates — though he should have plenty of help around next year.
“We started slow with that fumble,” he said. “Once we got motivated, though, we just pushed ourselves more.
“We’ve heard of Alter’s history, and it kind of rankled us a little bit, like we weren’t respected. I heard several times that they called us ‘Kingston,’ but we’ve had such great support all season from our community, we wanted to show them something.”
Matt Iklodi put the final nail in the coffin for Kenston with an interception with 8:52 to play, setting up Porter’s final touchdown in his 116-yard day.
Iklodi said it all succinctly: “We approached this game like any other game we play. We’ve been playing together since second grade, and we felt we were a very good team.
“I had heard of them calling us ‘Kingston,’ too, and it rubbed me and the rest of the guys the wrong way. We wanted to let them know who we are, and I just think we did a decent job of it today.”
Kenston’s offense got the job done when they had to, as Tomcufcik hit on 16 of 23 passes and three scores to keep things in perspective.
“Even when we got down early,” the junior standout said, “once we scored, I felt momentum swinging our way a lot. I knew we had to just work and be more physical in the lines, and with our tackling, the guys responded and we really got pumped up. ”
Meanwhile, Kenston’s defense held Alter to 284 yards total, something nobody else came close to doing all season.
Joe Staudenbauer said he was proud to be part of that.
“I knew they’d be tough,” he said. “Being misnamed, though, helped give us an attitude that we would not be defeated today. They’re good, we knew it, and were ready.”
“We saw that they would pack the box on us to stop our ground game,” Grubich said. “We play to win all the time, though. We took some risks with fourth down plays and they worked, but the main key was how well our defense stopped them from any momentum shifts.
“Like I said earlier, I’m just so proud of our team, our community, and it’s such an honor to represent them all like we did today.”
Kenston had it all working most of the day, period. Ed Somritz, Alter coach for 44 years, made no excuses.
“We were prepared well for this game today,” he said. “Give credit to Kenston for just being a very good team, especially in their lines both ways, and they were by far the better team today. We played hard, gave good effort, but they wouldn’t let us sustain anything on offense.”
It won’t be easy duplicating Kenston’s feat in the future. The guys will be back next year to push for another trip to the playoffs, but now they wear a target on their backs. They will wear it well and proudly, having created memories for the future and the entire community. Congratulations, Kenston Bombers.
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