The Aurora scoreboard was big and bright behind the Kenston football team as it took a knee to listen to coach Jeff Grubich’s postgame speech.
The score behind them was not what the Bombers were hoping for going into a CVC Chagrin Division showdown against Aurora, with a share of the league title on the line.
The final score was Aurora 63, Kenston 28. With the win, the Greenmen clinched a share of the league title with Chagrin Falls, which defeated Perry on Friday night. According to ratings expert Joe Eitel projections following the game, both Aurora and Kenston secured playoff berths.
“We had multiple opportunities to change the outcome of this game,” Grubich said. “We just didn’t capitalize. For a young football team, I have to go back and look at those mistakes. We’ll have to figure out a way to correct those mistakes so we can take advantage of the opportunity we have for Week 11.”
The mistakes included four interceptions by the Bombers, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
At the start of the third quarter, the Bombers scored on an 11-yard pass from Parker Gdula to Ken Weninger to cut Aurora’s lead to 42-27 with 9:36 left.
The Bombers got a stop on their ensuing drive, when Sam Gambatese made a touchdown-saving tackle.
With momentum on their side, the Bombers took over on the Greenmen’s 5-yard line. A 22-yard run by Gdula and a roughing the passer penalty on the Greenmen put the Bombers on the 50-yard line with a third-and-six opportunity.
One play later, the Greenmen picked off the Bombers.
Kenston ended up scoring once in the second half.
“You can’t spot a good football team like them four turnovers, including two for touchdowns,” Grubich said. “When you give up 14 points, you are behind the eight ball. That’s a good football program over there and we just made too many mistakes. Hats off to them.”
A highlight for the Bombers was the play of Pedro Velasco who surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
He finished the game with 16 carries for 130 yards, giving him 1,115 for the season.
“I have so much respect for Kenston’s offense and what coach Grubich has done,” said Aurora coach Bob Mihalik, whose team improved to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the league, while the Bombers dropped to 7-3 (5-2). “They had us on our heels the whole first half. We did get a couple of interceptions and that helped.
“I thought our special teams were huge. We made some adjustments in the second half and our kids did a good job of executing them. The key for us was getting the stops. Offensively, we just kept chugging along.”
The Greenmen’s offense runs through senior quarterback George Bollas, a Kent State recruit. Bollas finished the night 12 of 17 for 82 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Parker Gdula was 15 of 28 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
“You want the ball in your senior quarterback’s hands,” Mihalik said. “He makes good things happen.”
Aurora opened the game with a 14-play, 69-yard drive to take a quick 7-0 lead with 6:18 left in the first. Kenston took over and got down to Aurora’s 3-yard line. On third-and-goal, the Bombers threw a pick six which was recovered by the Greenmen in the end zone. The Greenmen went 100 yards for the TD and a 14-0 lead with 3:37 left in the first.
The Greenmen attempted an onside kick following the score, but it was recovered by Kenston’s Sam Gambatese. The Bombers staged a successful eight-play, 59-yard drive which was keyed by a 16-yard pass from Gdula to Mitch Lyon and a 16-yard run by Velasco.
Gdula capped the drive with a 15-yard run to cut Aurora’s lead to 14-7 with 2:14 left in the first.
The Greenmen quickly responded on their ensuing possession with a 33-yard TD run to stretch their lead to 21-7 with 11:50 left in the second.
The Bombers attempted to get back into the game on their next drive, but the second pick six of the game gave the Greenmen a 28-7 lead at the 11:12 mark.
Despite being down, the Bombers battled and staged a seven-play, 71-yard drive. There were three big plays during the drive which included 12 and 16 yard runs by Velasco. Gdula also had a 19-yard pass to Jeremy Wyers and a 25-yard TD pass to Drew Weninger. With 6:41 left in the second, the Greenmen led, 28-13.
The time of possession told the story for the Bombers in the first half. The Greemen had the ball for 16 minutes, 37 seconds while the Bombers possessed it eight minutes, 33 seconds.
Now it’s back to the drawing board for Grubich and his team as they head into postseason play.