Whether losing a blowout or losing a nail biter, season-ending games hurt in one way or another.
For Kenston (7-4), it was the former of the two defeats, as the Bombers ran into a juggernaut in St. Vincent-St. Mary (11-0) during the first round of the Division III, Region 7 tournament on Friday in Akron.
The host Fighting Irish roughed up Kenston, 52-7, behind a four-touchdown performance by Ohio State University running back recruit Parris Campbell.
Kenston head coach Jeff Grubich said the outcome is what it is.
“Well, I told my guys that we ran into a buzz saw in week 11 with St. Vincent-St. Mary,” he said. “They had 96 kids dressed on the sideline for the game Friday night. A lot of people say they’re the No. 1 team in Ohio, regardless of division. After playing against them, I would probably have to agree with that.”
Campbell gave the Irish a 14-0 advantage with an 18-yard run and a 21-yard reception for touchdowns in the first quarter.
The second quarter, however, was the dagger as SVSM scored 28 points, including two pick sixes – one for 98 yards and the other for 22 yards – to own a 42-0 lead by intermission.
“I told our young men that we had a couple of opportunities there in the first half to make it an interesting game,” Grubich said. “Once again, our sophomore quarterback had a couple picks that put us in difficult situations.
“So the bottom line is, I told my guys there weren’t a lot of people who were picking us at the beginning of the season to contend for a CVC title and a home playoff game. We were playing for that week 10. That’s a credit to the small senior class that I have. This group did a great job of getting us to back-to-back playoffs for the first time in Kenston history.”
The Irish tacked on 10 more points in the fourth quarter off a 4-yard run by Campbell and a 22-yard field goal by Jim Demboski.
Kenston’s lone touchdown came on a 33-yard scamper by Pedro Velasco with 3:34 remaining in the fourth quarter for the 52-7 final. The senior running back finished with 87 yards on 19 carries.
Sophomore quarterback Parker Gdula finished 13-of-28 passing for 73 yards and four interceptions.
Overall, SVSM outgained Kenston, 323-172 yards, and won the turnover battle, 5-0.
“A lot of people were maybe picking us to be 5-5, so I’m happy with what we did,” Grubich said. “The biggest thing I told them is, when you look back on the season, the only team that really beat us was St. Vincent-St. Mary. The other games, Kenston did a pretty good job of beating up on ourselves. The turnover bug just killed us. With the inexperience, you’re going to have that.”
After graduating 26 seniors last year, most of whom were starters in some capacity, the 2013 Bombers took advantage of the opportunities given to them and made the best out of them, Grubich said.
“My second year here with the program, and the program with me, I think we just became a better team overall,” he said. “We probably didn’t have as much talent as we did last year, but they just bought into our message that hard work pays off and playing for your teammates. It benefited them and put them in a position to win games.”
Despite having suffered the biggest defeat of his two-year tenure at the helm, Grubich kept a positive mind.
Helping to provide the young men of Bainbridge and Auburn townships the opportunity to mature on the gridiron and enjoy playing the game is what’s rewarding at the end of the day, no matter what the scoreboard reads, he said.
“Probably the biggest thing is the senior class that graduated a year ago already coming back and just talking about what a great experience it was and how much they miss it,” Grubich said.
“And also the player buy-in with our current football players,” he said. “We come to school every day, and we come to practice, and we’re able to go and have fun. It’s not difficult to go to practice. It’s fun. That’s what I enjoy, and that’s what I tell my players all the time. If they’re not having fun out there, then it’s not worth doing.”