The Kenston football team clinched its third straight playoff appearance for the first time in school history with an impressive 31-21 victory over Chagrin Valley Conference rival Aurora, who entered the game 9-0, Friday night at Bomber Stadium at Kenston High School.
The Bombers went into the game against the Greenmen with the mindset that the Week 10 game was already a playoff tilt according to Kenston coach Jeff Grubich.
“I told the kids last week it was a playoff game,” Grubich said.
The Bombers reaped two rewards for their victory.
First, Kenston (8-2, 7-0) won the CVC Chagrin Division outright; the Bombers have now won eight straight after starting out 0-2.
It’s the Bombers’ first outright conference title since 1995. The Bombers have outscored their opponents, 41-11, during the eight-game win streak.
“Any time you can win a conference championship outright, it’s special,” Grubich said. “It’s hard to go through any conference unbeaten.
“No doubt the kids were smiling ear to ear Friday night, but the smiles are over.”
The smiles are over, as he said, because of the second reward: the Bombers get to have a rematch with Aurora (9-1, 6-1) this week.
The No. 4 seeded Greenmen will host No. 5 seed Kenston in a Division III, Region 7 regional quarterfinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Aurora High School.
“Our thoughts at Kenston was we’re going to see them again,” Grubich said. “They’re a real good football team.
“The good thing about it is we’re familiar with our opponent. We know what they’re going to do, and they know what we’re going to do. The challenge is keeping them focused. That’s our job as coaches.”
If the Bombers win, they advance to a regional semifinal at a neutral site to be determined. That would be against the winner of No. 1 seed Hubbard (10-0) or No. 8 seed Tallmadge (6-4).
Last season the Bombers lost to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a regional quarterfinal.
Kenston did most of its work on the ground against the Greenmen as James Thigpen had 16 rushes for 90 yards and Jake Silberman had 12 rushes for 87 yards with two touchdowns. Parker Gdula did not throw for a score, but he rushed for two and finished 9-of-22 passing for 129 yards. The Bombers as a team rushed 37 times for 204 yards.
“Offensively, we struggled a little bit,” Grubich said. “But our special teams and defense played pretty well.”
And what will it take to beat the Greenmen again?
“In a playoff game, it comes down to three things,” Grubich said. “Limit your turnovers, and then who blocks better and who tackles better.”
Kenston has some impressive offensive stats heading into the rematch. Gdula has completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,113 yards with 14 touch-downs against only seven interceptions.
Gdula’s favorite target is Jeremy Wyers, who has caught 43 passes for 672 yards and five touchdowns. But the Bombers are good at spreading the ball around; five different receivers have at least 16 catches this season.
Thigpen is the leading rushing with 1,011 yards on 6.7 yards per rush to go along with 12 touchdowns.