GATES MILLS—Gilmour Academy jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and never looked back in downing visiting Madison 33-13 in a Division III, Region 9 showdown on Friday.
With the win, the Lancers improved to 9-2 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
“I love the way they played. I’m so proud of them,” said Gilmour coach Tom Kaufman of his team’s performance. “We thought Madison was a tremendous football team and still think that. I think a couple weeks ago against Buckeye, our team really stepped up, grew up, and they’re showing how physical they can be.”
The game got off to a gutsy start with both teams failing on fourth-and-one attempts, resulting in the Lancers taking over where they began their first drive. This time, Gilmour found the end zone on a pitch to Andy Kavcic, who raced 47 yards down the left sideline.
Madison looked to answer.
A Carson Alley second-down deep shot to Mac Steele fell incomplete and a nice breakup by Jake Kavcic allowed the Lancer defense to get off the field.
Gilmour picked up where it left off as the offense continued to click. After receiving a short field, Jake Kavcic used his legs to get the Lancers to the 15 where he found Sean Dillard for the score.
Down 13, the Blue Streak offense appeared to find some life. Early runs from Sonny Salajcik set up play-action success later in the drive, but the drive fizzled out at the Gilmour 14 and a missed field goal left Madison empty-handed.
“We’re going to put as many guys in the box as we need, but (Madison) is a good throwing team, too. We still had to be in regular defenses,” Kaufman said of the defensive strategy. “Coach Minnillo, Coach Williams, Coach Neibecker – our defensive staff – they did a phenomenal job and, most importantly, the kids executed the plan.”
Madison’s defense was able to get off the field with the help of a third-down breakup by Daniel Combs, but a combination of a booming punt and a good defensive stand by the Lancers thwarted that Blue Streak drive.
At their own five with just over a minute left in the half, Gilmour possessed the ball deep in its own territory. A quick slant from Jake Kavcic to Dillard led to a 95-yard touchdown that grew Gilmour’s lead to 20-0.
“Again, credit to Coach Lytle, Coach Walnsch, and our offensive staff,” Kaufman said on the splash play. “It was a great play call at the end of the first half there to get Sean in a one-on-one and he obviously made an explosive play.”
Coming out of the locker room, Madison desperately needed a spark and Knolan Albert supplied it when he returned the second-half kickoff 61 yards to the Lancer 28.
Alley then threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Lawrence that cut Madison’s deficit to 20-7.
With their lead cut back to 13, the Lancers needed a response to the previous Blue Streak score and Jake Kavcic called his own number on a 39-yard scamper to the Madison five. From there, Kavcic again pulled a Houdini and escaped the Blue Devil front-seven to break the plane.
“We don’t allow them to have excuses. It’s 0-0, fourth-and-inches every play, and they showed that,” Kaufman said of his team’s response to Madison’s score. “The offense came right back, responded, and from that point, it was kind of cruising. It shows how resilient these guys are.”
Down 20 as the third quarter closed, Madison put together a successful drive off a short punt that set them up past midfield. However, Jack Soeder stayed home on a fake end-around pass and came up with an interception at the goal line.
After exchanging punts, Gilmour had the ball looking to put the game on ice. Staring down a fourth-and-four, brothers Jake and Andy Kavcic connected on a 29-yard shot down the seam to make it 33-7 with just under three minutes left to play.
Madison moved the ball well on its ensuing drive. A big scramble from Alley set the Blue Streaks up at midfield and Noah Barnes ran it in on a jet sweep, but the score came too late as the Lancers ran out the clock on their next possession.
The sixth-seeded Lancers advanced to play at No. 3 Aurora on Friday. The Greenmen opened the postseason with a 41-7 win over Alliance.
“We’re going to do what we do. I think we’ve got a really nice schedule with a good mix of rest while still getting after it,” Kaufman said. “Aurora is going to be a tremendous challenge. We know what kind of program they are; I’ve known their head coach forever, but we worry about us. We’re going to get better and give it our best shot a week from tonight.”