Kirtland senior Tommy Gogolin ran for a career-high 193 yards in a 30-0 shutout of Mogadore in a Division VI, Region 21 championship game at Nordonia on Saturday.
With the win, the Hornets advanced to the state Final Four for the sixth consecutive season and 11th time in the last 12 seasons.
“We were all extremely excited to play this game and we just executed and played the way that we wanted to,” Gogolin said. “It’s awesome to win like that with a running clock going into the second half. Everyone just did their job on both sides of the ball very well tonight.”
All season long, Kirtland and Mogadore were on a collision course for the regional title.
Kirtland wasted little time imposing its will on the Wildcats.
The Hornets opened the game with a seven-play, 61-yard drive capped by Gogolin’s nine-yard touchdown run. After a Mogadore penalty on the point after try, Rocco Alfieri ran in a two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Mogadore moved into Kirtland territory on the ensuing possession but Evan Koprowski picked off a pass on 4th-and-12 at the Hornet 21.
Alfieri then ran for a 26-yard touchdown to push the Kirtland lead to 15-0 with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
Gogolin broke off a 51-yard run midway through the second quarter to push the lead to 22-0 and Jake LaVerde made it 28-0 with his one-yard touchdown run.
Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde opted to try for the two-point conversion—and running clock—and the move paid off as Gogolin bobbed and weaved into the end zone for a 30-0 lead.
Gogolin ran for 180 of his 193 yards in the first half.
His previous career high was 143 yards.
“It was awesome,” Gogolin said. “That’s a position that everyone wants to be in, and also, hats off to the guys blocking because everything was working for us. The coaches got us prepared very well all week and we knew for the most part what we were going to be seeing out there. Everyone just followed the game plan and did their job all night.”
With a 30-0 lead and a running clock to start the second half, Kirtland’s defense focused on shutting out the Wildcats.
“We were going in knowing that they are a good opponent who does what they want to teams, so we knew going in that we would have to play a good game to beat them and we did just that,” said defensive back Will Bates, who recorded two sacks in the game. To play another week together means everything to us.”
Bates and the Hornets swarmed the Wildcats all night long and by shutting down Mason Williams, who amassed just 53 yards of offense on 13 touches, Kirtland stymied the Mogadore offense.
“After looking at the film, we saw outside of 87 (Williams) they didn’t have much, so the key to our success was just doing what the coaches coach us to do and we did what they wanted us to do to stop him,” Bates said. “I would just work my tail off every play and eventually, wore them down and I would sometimes be able to get through and make the play. I knew that if I wasn’t going to make the play, I knew the guys behind me were going to.”
Kirtland outgained Mogadore, 294-96, won the turnover battle, 3-1, and limited Mogadore to a 27.3-percent success ratio on third down while converting on nearly 67 percent of its own third-down tries.
“A lot of these guys playing this year got to play a good amount last year so they know what it takes,” Gogolin said. “We all know that as long as we can run the ball well and play tough scrappy defense we can compete with anyone.”
The Hornets advanced to play Beverly Fort Frye in a Division VI state semifinal on Saturday at Canfield South Range’s Reminder Athletic Complex. Fort Frye (13-1) defeated Bellaire in the Region 23 championship game, 35-28.
Kirtland defeated Fort Frye in a 2018 state semifinal, 35-18, and also beat the Cadets in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, 49-7.