Monday, June 17

    Kirtland rides dominant defense to Final Four win over Garaway

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    Kirtland’s defense dominated the night in a 17-0 win over Sugarcreek Garaway in a Division VI state semifinal on Friday at Louisville High School.

    The Hornets scored all 17 of their points in the second half and limited the potent Pirate offense to just 55 yards of offense and -20 yards on 16 rushing attempts. Garaway entered the game averaging nearly 40 points and over 400 yards of offense per game.

    “Man, those kids played their tails off tonight and did exactly what Coach (Ryan) Beeler told them to do,” said Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde of his defense. “They got after the quarterback and made his life miserable. We got after him and made it hard on him, and we mixed up some mans and zones (coverages), and our kids just fought.”

    Kirtland, who improved to 64-12 in postseason games and improved to 12-0 in state Final Four games, set the tone early by chewing up over eight minutes of clock on the game’s opening possession, which resulted in a blocked field goal.

    The Hornets then recorded three of their eight sacks on Garaway’s first possession of the game which ended with a punt early in the second quarter.

    A facemask on the punt gave the Hornets possession of the ball at their own 47 but that drive resulted in a punt.

    The Pirates then used a 40-yard screen play to move into Kirtland territory but a Rocco Alfieri sack forced Garaway to attempt a 38-yard field goal that fell just short of the crossbar.

    Will Beers ran for 10 yards and Alfieri added a 39-yard run to set up Nickolas Barisic’s 41-yard field goal attempt with 13 seconds left in the half. That kick had the distance but sailed right and the Pirates took a knee on the next play to end the half tied 0-0.

    Garaway accumulated -3 rushing yards in the first half.

    The second half opened with Ty Bledsoe recovering a fumble at the Garaway 16 and Alfieri converted that turnover into a three-yard touchdown run with 8:55 left in the third quarter.

    “I knew their defense was big and strong and fast and athletic, and I knew points were going to be hard to get,” LaVerde said. “That turnover coming out after the first kickoff of the second half to give us a short field was big.”

    Back-to-back sacks hurt Garaway on its next possession and the Pirates punted the ball back to the Hornets with 7:09 left in the quarter.

    Kirtland again chewed up nearly eight minutes and Barisic booted a 20-yard field goal that increased the Hornet lead to 10-0 early in the fourth quarter.

    Garaway began its sixth drive of the night at its own 28 but moved near midfield after a pass interference call on the Hornets. Alfieri recorded his second sack of the night on the next play and Will Bates did the same on the next play.

    The Pirates attempted to convert a fourth-and-21 but their pass fell incomplete and a 15-yard personal foul after the play set the Hornets up at the Garaway 14.

    Two plays later, Jake LaVerde scampered 15 yards into the end zone to close out the scoring.

    The Hornets outgained the Pirates, 290-55, and recorded 20 first downs to just seven for Garaway. Kirtland was flagged an uncharacteristic 13 times for 123 yards in the win.

    Alfieri led the Hornets on the ground.

    He carried 19 times for 108 yards and scored one touchdown. Beers finished with 62 yards and LaVerde ran for 50 and completed 5-of-6 passes for 46 yards.

    Kirtland, who improved to 14-1, will play Versailles for the Division VI state championship on Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

    Alan Kornspan contributed to this story.




    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, 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, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the 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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