The roars of hard work from the last three years let loose. Then, all of the sudden, it got quiet.
“C-v-c, C-v-c, C-v-c,” the Bomber gridders chanted in low-key voices.
“C-V-C, C-V-C, C-V-C,” they chorused a little louder.
“C-V-C! C-V-C! C-V-C!” they shouted while dancing.
For the first time since its state runner-up season in 1995, the Kenston football team won the outright Chagrin Valley Conference title by beating previously undefeated and state-ranked Aurora, 31-21, in front of a home crowd on Friday night.
In 2010, the Bombers shared the banner with Aurora and Chagrin.
“The last three years we talked about getting to this point,” third-year head coach Jeff Grubich said in the post-game huddle. “And that’s from great senior leadership. Great senior leadership. I couldn’t be more proud of you. This team, men. This team. Family. Family. You say it all the time. That’s what it’s about. It’s about this football family. Guys, I couldn’t be more proud of a group of boys. Man, I’ve been coaching and playing football for a long time, and I could not be more proud. You guys have earned this. Celebrate. Enjoy it. Enjoy it.”
The field-position battle tilted the Bombers’ way in the first quarter with their first three drives starting on Greenmen’s 25-, 9- and 24-yard lines – thanks to an opening kickoff recovery by senior Josh Hummer, a punt block by senior Will Bush and a high snap by Aurora, when Kenston senior Jake Silbermann forced the Greenmen’s punter to run out of bounds.
All that commotion, however, led to just seven points for the Bombers on a 6-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Parker Gdula, who used his entire 6-foot-2 frame to dive and break the plane.
“The coaches talk about determination getting into the end zone,” he said. “So that’s what I did. I put my head down and made sure I got in the end zone. The field position was huge for us. We had our first three drives inside the 30, and I think we only got seven points out of all that. But still, it helped our offense gain momentum and find our confidence to get some rhythm.”
Kenston’s defense went on to force Aurora to two consecutive three-and-outs, highlighted by junior linebacker Zach Silbermann’s tackle for a loss and sack on Aurora senior quarterback Alex Smierciak.
The Bombers held Aurora to 24 yards on the Greenmen’s first four drives.
“Our D-line really opened up some things for us,” Silbermann said. “And us linebackers knew we had good coverage in the back. So we knew we could keep rushing them.
“You know, this is the moment that everybody on this team has dreamed of, ever since we were in youth league. My whole team, we wanted nothing else in the winter, when we were grinding. The benching pressing, the squatting, we were thinking about this CVC title.”
In the second quarter, older brother Jake Silbermann gave the Bombers a 14-0 lead with a 35-yard run up the gut, breaking two tackles and then cut to the right, where he tight-roped the sideline past two diving defensive backs.
“Guys were trying to get at my legs, and it’s wet. It’s slippery. They couldn’t get a hold of me,” he said. “They weren’t really tackling me on my body or anything, and I almost got caught, but I broke into the end zone.
“The past few years, we came out of this game with a sour taste in our mouth. If we would have lost this game, our season would have ended. So we didn’t let that happen.”
After Aurora answered with a 9-yard touchdown run by Smierciak – but a failed extra-point attempt left the score at 14-6 – Kenston senior Jeremy Wyers broke loose on a 66-yard kickoff return to set up the another touchdown run by Silbermann for the 21-6 lead.
“I just got the ball, it was a middle return, and there was a big opening,” Wyers said. “Jake Silbermann had a big block for me, and it was just wide open for me, and I tried to outrun them. So it was good to see Jake finish that one off.
“That’s all we wanted to do, was just win the CVC. We’re getting kicked out next year, and we just wanted to win it and rub it in everyone’s faces a little bit.”
Kenston senior Parker Deuley booted a 27-yard field goal for the 24-6 lead with 1:57 left in the half, and then Aurora answered with a 26-yard diving catch in the end zone by senior receiver Joe Dinardo with 38 seconds before intermission for the 24-13 score.
In the third quarter, Aurora continued to chip away by putting together an eight-minute, 14-play drive that concluded with junior running back Ben Nelson’s 1-yard touchdown and followed up by Smierciak’s two-point conversion run for a 24-21 score.
On Kenston’s ensuing drive, Aurora junior defensive back Mitch Evans collected an interception on his own 1-yard line, and the Greenmen appeared to be back in business entering the fourth quarter with just a three-point deficit.
Down the stretch, however, Aurora turned the ball over on downs, and then the Greenmen were intercepted three consecutive times – two passes by Smierciak and the other on a trick-play pass by Ben Nelson. Kenston defensive backs Ryan Cozzens, Wyers and Deuley were the beneficiaries.
Wyers’ pick in particular was a return from the Greenmen 33 to the 8-yard line, which set up Gdula’s game-clinching, 5-yard touchdown run, 31-21, with 2:46 to play.
The interceptions came on quarterback pressures from Kenston’s front seven.
“Our defense has always stepped it up,” senior end Will Bush said. “I mean, we’ve been great defense all year. I’m really proud of all the other guys. We knew this game was going to be intense. We knew we were going to have to come hard. We got in there, we got pressure, and it felt good.
“Winning the CVC, I love it. It just feels amazing. To go out as the senior class to win that, it’s been amazing, and it’s time to come back to work to play the next opponent.”
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