Something had to give.
Kirtland entered Friday’s Division VI regional semifinal against Norwayne at Strongsville’s Pat Catan Stadium allowing just 2.91 points per game. The Bobcats came in averaging 41.18 points per contest.
The Hornets dominated on both sides of the ball and went on to win, 35-0.
“Coach (Ryan) Beeler had a great plan and the kids competed really hard,” Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde said of his defensive coordinator and the effort by the Hornets’ defense. “That was a good football team and we capitalized on some of their mistakes. I love these kids so much and I am so proud of them and how hard they work and how unselfish they are.”
The Hornets set the tone early as Joey Torok raced for a 56-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Kirtland has now scored on its first offensive play in six of 12 games this season.
Torok has scored five of those touchdowns.
“We had a special formation where we had an extra guy on the left to block,” Torok said of the TD. “It’s something they hadn’t seen so they didn’t align to it right and we popped it for a touchdown. That was huge because we took the ball (on the opening kickoff) so that we could score and get some momentum. It worked out perfectly for us.”
Torok, who finished with 122 yards on 15 carries, added a four-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Jake Neibecker added 132 yards on 17 carries and scored one touchdown while Tommy Powers completed 2-of-4 passes for 30 yards and he ran for two scores in the win.
Kirtland’s defense, which hasn’t allowed more than seven points in a single game this season, completely shut down the Norwayne offense, which had tallied 428 yards of offense in Weeks 1-11.
Norwayne’s longest drive came in the first quarter when the Bobcats drove to the Kirtland 24 before a penalty forced a punt from the Hornets’ 44.
The Bobcats finished with just 124 yards of offense and managed just two second-half first downs.
“We knew coming in that it would be a challenge to contain that offense and it was just that,” linebacker Dawson Cosgrove said. “It took an all-out effort from everybody at every position. We played mistake-free and rallied to the ball. That’s why we did so well and it really showed on the scoreboard. It felt pretty great.”
Cosgrove was especially effective thanks to the scheme drawn up by Beeler and company.
“Our coaches drew up a scheme for this week that allowed for the linebackers to be unblocked a lot of the plays,” Cosgrove said. “From there, I just had to get to the ball and make the tackles.”
Kirtland, who improved to 12-0, has shut out both of its postseason opponents and still has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
The Hornets will play Mogadore in the Region 21 championship on Friday at a location to be determined.