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    Kirtland avenges loss to Versailles in clinching seventh state title

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    CANTON–The Kirtland Hornets avenged a disappointing loss to Versailles in the 2021 Division V state championship game by defeating the Tigers in Friday’s Division VI title game, 32-15.

    With the win, the Hornets clinched their seventh state championship since 2011 and finished the season with a 15-1 record.

    “I really thought it would be a one-score game, but these kids came out and executed on offense, defense, and special teams,” said Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde. “Our defense pretty much all day gave them fits and made it hard on (Versailles quarterback Michael Osborne). We got the job done with these guys running the football and on a wet, cold day, the team that runs for more yards usually wins.”

    Kirtland ran for 350 yards on 50 carries while Versailles accumulated just 144 yards on 32 rushes.

    The Hornets also won the turnover battle and caught a couple of breaks when they recovered two of their four fumbles in the end zone for touchdowns. The Hornets recovered the ball each time they put it on the turf.

    Jake LaVerde headed into the end zone for Kirtland’s first score, but he fumbled the ball forward and Gino Blasini jumped on it for the score. Nickolas Barisic’s extra point gave Kirtland a 7-0 lead with 7:46 left in the first quarter.

    After Kirtland’s defense forced a second straight punt from Versailles, Will Beers ran for a six-yard touchdown with 3:07 left in the opening quarter but the extra point was blocked and Kirtland led 13-0.

    Osborne led the Tigers on a nine-play, 66-yard drive he capped off with a 31-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Griesdorn, capitalizing on one of the few mistakes Kirtland’s defense made in the game.

    The Versailles momentum lasted only 14 seconds as Beers returned the ensuing kickoff a Division VI championship game record 90 yards for another Kirtland touchdown with 10:41 left in the first half.

    “I actually almost slipped and fell catching the ball,” Beers said. “I saw the hole and saw the blocking and saw it was wide open after I caught the kick.”

    Versailles drove into Kirtland territory on its next possession, but the Hornets held and forced a turnover on downs at their own 39.

    The Hornets drove to the Versailles six-yard line with seven seconds remaining in the half, but the Tigers made a key play to stop Kirtland at the one as time expired.

    Kirtland opened the third quarter with one of its two punts in the game and Versailles quickly went to work and after converting a fourth-and-five from their own 45, the Tigers faced a fourth-and-goal from the Kirtland eight. A penalty moved the Tigers back to the 13 and Gino Blasini broke up a pass in the end zone to protect Kirtland’s 19-7 lead.

    Aided by Beers’ edge-sealing block, LaVerde dodged the would-be tackler Beers took care off and then used a spin move to elude another Tiger. He then dashed 72 yards to the Versailles two and Rocco Alfieri scored on the next play for a 25-7 Kirtland lead.

    “The guys up front got it done; it was like opening up the Red Sea,” Coach LaVerde said.

    Versailles once again drove into Kirtland territory but Beers broke up a fourth-down pass attempt at the Kirtland one and the Hornets once again took over possession.

    Kirtland’s next drive ended with Beers racing into the end zone but after a hit near the goal line, he fumbled the ball and Will Sayle jumped on it in the end zone for another Kirtland touchdown. Barisic added the extra point to increase the lead to 32-7.

    “Lightning doesn’t usually strike (twice), and it struck twice today.” Coach LaVerde said when asked about the two fumble recoveries for touchdowns.

    Osborne added a five-yard run with 55 seconds remaining in the game to close out the scoring for Versailles.

    Jake LaVerde led Kirtland with 124 rushing yards on eight carries and he completed 2-of-5 passes for 28 yards. Alfieri ran 23 times for 94 yards, and Beers added 83 yards on 15 carries.

    The Hornets ran for 311 yards on 50 carries in the game.

    Defensively, LaVerde and Sayle led the Hornets with seven tackles while Beers added six. Aaron Fortuna and Will Bates each recorded a sack in the win, and Blasini broke up a team-high three passes.

    Cameron Palmer contributed to this story.

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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