No need to call the jeweler.
The Kenston gridders polished the stone and made it shine quite fine with a 38-24 triumph against West Geauga in Chagrin Valley Conference action on Friday during the Bombers’ senior night.
With the win, not only are the 7-2 Bombers’ hopes for a back-to-back playoff appearance looking better than ever, but Kenston also will compete for a share of the CVC title for the first time since 2010.
“It’s an absolutely incredible feeling,” senior linebacker Sam Gambatese said. “We came in this week as the underdog, and this is just another example of how we’re proving people wrong. All week, all we heard about was their offensive line and what they’re going to do, but we said, ‘It’s not happening. It’s not happening.'”
The Wolverines had their way during the opening series of the game, with running back Abdul Levy, back in full strength from a sprained ankle, and quarterback Connor Krouse taking turns running the ball seven straight times for an 81-yard drive that concluded with Levy’s 4-yard touchdown.
West Geauga sprinted to an early 7-0 lead.
There was no need to panic, as the remainder of the half was owned by the Bombers, who scored 24 unanswered points before intermission with two blocked punts, a fake field goal for a touchdown and a goal-line stand on defense.
Kenston, in no way, shape or form, looked like a team that graduated 26 seniors from last season and only dressed a dozen seniors on Friday night. But the Bombers’ simple solution – hard work – has continued to be a winning formula.
On the first blocked punt of the night, Kenston senior Drew Weninger and junior Lovell Spruce busted through the Wolverine blockade, and a diving Weninger deflected the kick at the West Geauga 30-yard line.
Kenston sophomore Zach Silbermann picked up the loose pigskin but butter fingered it down to the 20-yard line, where Weninger – never giving up on the play – repossessed it and ran in for the score to knot the game, 7-7.
On West Geauga’s next possession, Kenston senior lineman Anthony Hajdu and junior defensive back Josh Hummer penetrated the Wolverines’ quarterback protection for a sandwich sack that forced a fumble, providing the Bombers’ offense short field position.
Four straight carries by senior running back Pedro Velasco muscled the ball into the end zone for the Bombers’ 14-7 lead. Velasco would finish the night with 134 yards on 28 carries.
“That touchdown was a big momentum changer. Our crowd got into it, our players got into it, and that’s when the game took off,” Velasco said. “This win was huge. They had a good team, a tough team, but I guess we were better than them. Our line picked it up, and I have to give a really big shout out to them. They let their game speak for itself.”
A suffocating tackle by Kenston sophomore Charlie Randall pinned the Wolverines back to their own 10-yard line on a 1-yard kickoff return to resume play.
Kenston’s defense would bend but not break, as the Bombers forced West Geauga to turn the ball over on downs with a fourth-down tackle by senior Billy McDermott.
Then, after junior kicker Parker Deuley booted a 19-yard field goal for the 17-7 lead, the Bomber defense again pinned West Geauga back in its own territory.
Déjà vu, Weninger again busted through the Wolverines’ special-teams coverage and blocked another West Geauga punt.
Three plays later, Kenston sent its field goal unit on the gridiron for a 29-yard attempt, but head coach Jeff Grubich sent Weninger, the Bombers’ holder, in with an alternate play call.
“Coach said, ‘Run the fake,’ and I’m like, ‘OK,’ because we practiced it, but I didn’t think we were going to run it on fourth-and-eight,” Weninger said. “So I went to the huddle and told the guys, and they all looked up and were like, ‘Do it, do it.’ And I was like, ‘I know, I know.’ So that’s what happened.”
The snap came, and, instead of holding laces out, Weninger picked the ball up and ran 19 yards into the end zone for the 24-7 lead.
The Wolverines attempted to get some momentum before halftime, but a goal-line stand by the Bombers and a high snap on fourth down by the Wolverines left West Geauga with a 17-point deficit at intermission.
A 35-yard pick six by Mike Koller to open the second half, however, got the ball rolling for the Wolverines, who fought back and trailed just 24-17 to start the fourth quarter.
Driving at midfield later in the fourth quarter, West Geauga’s momentum was stalled as a Wolverine pass was intercepted by McDermott, who ran 41 yards down to the red zone.
“I saw the QB rolling out, and I went into my drop zone, and he just threw it right to me,” McDermott said. “Honestly, it wasn’t even registering with me. Instinct just kicked in, and I just saw the end zone and tried to get there.”
While McDermott was stopped short, his contribution set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Parker Gdula to Weninger for the 31-17 advantage.
West Geauga fired right back with a 50-yard pass from Krouse to Tom Snavely, and then Krouse punched in a 1-yard touchdown to again make it a one-possession game, 31-24.
On defense, West Geauga’s Nick Rakich came up with an interception to give the Wolverines the ball back with 3:55 remaining and a chance to tie the game.
Kenston’s defensive secondary held strong, forcing four consecutive incomplete passes by West Geauga. The Bombers’ offense then took advantage of a 23-yard field, and Gdula scored on a 4-yard QB keep to seal the victory, 38-24.
“To get that revenge, it feels incredible,” McDermott said with last year’s 21-17 loss to West Geauga on his mind. “We came into the game knowing they were going to be a really tough football team. We just kept doing our jobs and came away with the win. Now we get to compete for a conference title at Aurora. Hard work pays off.”