Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
November 5, 2014
Division III, Region 7
No. 5 Kenston Bombers (8-2) at No. 4 Aurora (9-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Veterans Stadium/artificial turf
Playing the same opponent twice in a season is uncommon enough in high school football, but playing the same team in back-to-back weeks — now that’s a thriller.
From Home Page After beating Aurora, 31-21, during a Chagrin Valley Conference title clincher last week in front of a home crowd, Kenston will have to do it again to keep its season alive when the Bombers hit the road at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the first round of the postseason at Veterans Stadium.
“That’s exactly what we expected,” Kenston head coach Jeff Grubich said about anticipating the rematch. “I walked right out after the game and went right up to coach (Bob) Mihalik and just told him, ‘I’ll see you next week.’ The old cliche is, it’s tough to beat a team twice, let alone back-to-back weeks. It’s kind of an exciting opportunity for us as a football program.”
With 15 seniors, the Bombers are heading into the postseason for the third consecutive season, and ninth time overall in school history, since 1952. Kenston’s cumulative playoff record is 7-8, with state runner-up finishes in 1995 and 1986.
Kenston’s last playoff victory was a 26-23 upset against top-ranked Tallmadge in 2012. Last year, the Bombers took a 52-7 hurting from eventual state champion St. Vincent-St. Mary in the first round.
“The juniors came to me right after the loss and said, ‘Coach, that’s not going to happen next year,'” Grubich said. “So far, these kids have followed through in terms of everything they set out to do, and there’s no question they’ve got more left in them.”
Aurora, meanwhile, will be making its 12th postseason appearance, including its 10th straight. The Greenmen won a Division III state championship in 2008 and have a 17-10 playoff record with a 49-19 loss to Hubbard last year in the regional semifinals.
Entering this week, Aurora is the ninth-ranked Division III team statewide. Kenston is still unranked despite eight consecutive wins — which indicates AP pollsters seem to believe the Bombers’ upset victory last week was a fluke.
During that upset victory, Kenston’s defense held Aurora to 277 yards on 66 offensive plays, with Greenmen senior quarterback Alex Smierciak completing 10 of 26 passes for 137 yards and two interceptions.
“Anytime they put the football up in the air, there’s an opportunity for our guys to come down with it,” Grubich said. “It’s a position we want to put Aurora in, because they’re more a of a team that would love to ground and pound it and have the five-, six-drive nights and not throw the ball once. So, if we get them throwing the ball around the yard, then we’re probably doing something right up front.”
On the ground, Kenston held Aurora’s 180-pound junior running back Ben Nelson to 58 yards on 17 carries, with his longest run for 9 yards.
Overall, Aurora had four turnovers to Kenston’s one, and the Bombers had just 45 yards of penalties — their most disciplined performance all season.
Offensively, Kenston gained 348 yards on 66 plays, with junior Parker Gdula completing nine of 22 passes for 129 yards. Senior receiver Jay Weemhoff hauled in three catches for 32 yards.
Sophomore running back James Thigpen had a tough time finding openings up the middle, but he still gained 90 yards on 16 carries, including a 36-yard run that allowed the Bombers to kneel out the clock.
With Aurora’s focus on Thigpen, senior running back Jake Silbermann opened up in a two-back set for 87 yards on 12 carries.
“The biggest thing for me as a coach is to make sure my kids flush last week’s victory down the toilet and move on,” Grubich said. “I told them, ‘You can enjoy the CVC title. You can enjoy everything you did in the regular season. But we’ve just begun a new season, and our focus now is to beat Aurora.'”
It’s going to be tougher to play on the road, but Kenston has a great student body and a great following in the community, Grubich said.
“I expect both sides to be well-represented, and I have a good feeling that the Kenston Krazies are going to be rallying behind us,” he said. “Both teams know each other. So it’s just going to be a question of who can execute better.”
TONY’S TAKE: Kenston sets the story straight, again, 27-17.
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