Kirtland jumped out to a 34-0 lead and then held off a hard-charging Canton Central Catholic squad in a Division VI, Region 21 quarterfinal on Friday, 48-26.
“We came out aggressive and laid it on them in the first half to get up big early,” said sophomore quarterback Jake LaVerde. “Our line is looking better each week and all of our backs are staying healthy, which is so important.”
LaVerde ran for a one-yard touchdown and threw a 50-yard TD pass to Gino Blasini, and Rocco Alfieri ran for a two-yard score as the Hornets built a 21-0 first quarter lead. Alfieri added a three-yard run and Macguire Boys plunged in for a one-yard score in the second half as the Hornets took a 34-0 lead into the break.
The Crusaders opened the second half with a 72-yard touchdown pass that cut Kirtland’s lead to 34-7.
Kirtland responded with a LaVerde 14-yard touchdown run and then a series of unfortunate events occurred for Kirtland’s reserves.
The Crusaders rushed for a 36-yard touchdown and on Kirtland’s next possession, a botched pitch out was scooped up by a Crusader defender, who ran it back for a touchdown that cut the Kirtland lead to 41-20.
Danny Alfieri slowed the Crusader momentum with a two-yard touchdown run but the Crusaders closed out the scoring with an 80-yard touchdown pass.
“In the second half, our varsity didn’t start and all of the JVs were in so there is nothing we could’ve done better,” LaVerde said. “We got up big in the first half, so we wanted to come out of that second half healthy, even though our JVs gave up three touchdowns.”
LaVerde completed 6-of-8 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. He also ran seven times for 28 yards and two scores.
Will Beers led the Hornets with 169 rushing yards on 12 carries and Rocco Alfieri added 80 yards on 18 carries.
“We were pounding the ball early on which opened up everything, so I was very proud of how our offense executed,” LaVerde said. “They had some big guys in the middle that were pretty good but we were able to handle them, which was awesome.”
With the win, the Hornets improved to 11-1 and will play Chagrin Valley Conference rival Cuyahoga Heights (10-1) in a regional semifinal on Friday at a site to be determined.
The Hornets defeated the Red Wolves in the regular season, 35-0.
“It will be very fun to play a league rival that we’ve faced many times in the past, so we are excited and won’t take one day for granted and we are ready to work,” LaVerde said.