Kirtland pulls away from Wickliffe in conference title game

Kirtland 34, Wickliffe 7

Kirtland scored 20 unanswered second-half points to pull away from host Wickliffe in a 34-7 win on Friday.

With the win, the Hornets closed out the regular season with a 10-0 record for the second straight season and also claimed back-to-back Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division titles.

“Wickliffe has a lot of tough kids and they are well-coached,” Kirtland senior Joey Torok said. “We played a tough team tonight and I wish them luck in the playoffs. This is a big win for us because we got to face a great back and we finally played a full game. Great to build off this win.”

Torok, who ran for 149 yards on 17 carries, opened the scoring with a 41-yard late in the first quarter.

The Hornets led 7-0 late in the half when Torok added his second touchdown run, this one a seven-yarder to make it 14-0 with 2:38 left in the half.

Wickliffe scored on a 31-yard pass from Brad Dieterich to De’Narre McRae as time expired to cut the Kirtland lead to 14-7 at the half.

“We were hurting ourselves in the first half with drive killing penalties,” Torok said. “We were moving the ball but just couldn’t finish due to penalties. We cut that down in the second half and wore them down with a big drive in the third quarter. The defense played tough which allowed us to stay on offense and score some points.”

Jake Neibecker ran for a four-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to increase the Kirtland lead to 21-7.

Neibecker finished with 135 rushing yards on 20 carries.

“Me and Joey owe all of the stats to the offensive line,” Neibecker said. “They work so hard every day at practice and get better every week. Me and Joey couldn’t ask for better guys up front and Tommy (Powers) being able to throw the ball all over distracts from our running game and defenses have to honor the pass. Wickliffe came out and played really hard so we knew we needed to take it up a notch in the second half and we did.”

Torok added a third touchdown run with 20 left in the third quarter and Tommy Powers threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mason Sullivan with 5:53 left in the game to close out the scoring.

Powers completed 5-of-7 passes for 101 yards.

Kirtland’s defense limited an opponent to seven points or less in all 10 games this season. That was no easy task against the Blue Devils, who entered the game averaging 36.78 points per contest.

Standout running back Isaac Pettway was held to just 84 yards on 20 carries and Chase Fortkamp was limited to 33 yards on 12 rushes.

“We had a great game plan in place for their offense,” Neibecker said. “We knew that those guys were talented backs and they were going to be tough runners. We ran to the ball and never stopped hustling and we were able to bottle them up.”

Dominic Capretta keyed the defense with a pair of interceptions.

“Coach (Ryan) Beeler did a great job with the scouting report, so on both plays I knew it would be a pass before the play and I was in great position to make a couple plays,” Capretta said. “The key to stopping them was to limit their great running back as best we could and be able to make key plays when we had the opportunity.”

Kirtland clinched a home game in Week 11 while Wickliffe (8-2) earned a playoff berth. Pairings will be announced on Sunday.