Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
September 13, 2018
The Kenston gridders can now add shutout to their college resumes.
Spearheaded by 205-pound senior linebacker Joe Staudenbaur’s eight tackles and a forced fumble in the red zone, the Bombers put together a 37-0 road rout against Geauga County rival West Geauga on Friday night at Howell Field.
Kenston atomized the host Wolverines up front, surrendering just 10 yards rushing, to close off the end zone entirely for the first time since 2014, when the Bombers had three shutouts during an 8-3 playoff campaign – before any of the current seniors were in high school.
“We went into the game thinking we hadn’t played our best game on the defensive side of the ball yet,” Kenston seventh-year head coach Jeff Grubich said about a 44-14 win against Streetsboro and a 41-14 triumph against Chagrin Falls.
“So, we wanted to focus on our effort and our alignment and our assignment, and our defensive coaches did a great job of emphasizing that all week,” he said. “And then the kids went out and executed the game plan. So, you’ve got to give credit to those defensive coaches and those defensive players for buying into the game plan and then just going out, executing and having some fun.”
In addition to Staudenbaur, fellow senior linebackers Matt Iklodi and Brandon Schroeder, who also plays center, jammed up the box against West Geauga’s ball carriers.
But Grubich said the unsung heroes all three weeks have been Kenston 30th-year assistant coach Bob Ross’ defensive linemen: 285-pound junior Max Czech, 275-pound senior Mitch Sotera and 210-pound junior Tim Matty, as well as 195-pound junior Eric Dombrowski as a sparkplug in rotation.
“If you were to ask what the strength of our defense is right now, I think everybody would say our D-line,” Grubich said. “We thought it was going to be our linebacker corps to start the year. So, they always say football is a game won in the trenches, and that just shows our D-line was much more physical up front and was able to control that side of the ball. And we were able to do that on the offensive side as well.”
Scoring all 37 of its points in the first half, Kenston showcased a balanced offense of 213 yards rushing and 206 yards passing for 22 first downs with an average of 6.5 yards gained on 64 plays.
Kenston junior Jay Middleton returned the opening kickoff 58 yards, although the Bombers gave 15 of those yards back on a personal foul, before marching down the field on a seven-play drive that concluded with junior running back Jack Porter’s 3-yard touchdown run.
Bomber senior receiver Bransen Stanley then picked up 48 yards on a toss from junior quarterback Jon Tomcufcik, before Tomcufcik punched it in the end zone on a 2-yard keeper to put Kenston up, 14-0, with 6:14 to go in the opening frame.
Kenston’s third drive featured Porter’s 15-yard reception and 25-yard run, before he punched in a 1-yard touchdown for a 21-0 upper hand at the end of the quarter. He would finish the night with 17 carries for 105 yards and three catches for 46 yards.
Kenston senior Anna Sanders split the uprights to add three more points on a 26-yard field goal for a 24-0 lead with 9:29 to play in the half.
“Coach (Mike) Henry does a great job with her and our other kicker, Blake Torres,” Grubich said. “And through the summer, she’s been able to strengthen that leg and increase her range. And, so, I said to coach Henry, ‘Let’s kick it. Who you sending in?’ And he goes, ‘I’m sending in Sanders. She’s been perfect from that distance.’ And she boomed it right through. There was no doubt with plenty of leg.”
Later in the second quarter, Stanley had a 27-yard punt return that set up the Bombers in the red zone. Two plays later, Porter scored his third touchdown on a 3-yard carry for the 30-0 upper hand.
On West Geauga’s ensuing possession, Kenston senior Kole Jarzembak blocked a Wolverine punt on a 41-yard field, recovered it and returned it for a touchdown and a 37-0 lead with 5:28 to go before the break.
“He blocked it, and then it took a perfect bounce, and he was able to scoop it up and score,” Grubich said. “So, he blocked it and got the six. You don’t see that often. You could tell the kids were really excited.
“There’s some crazy stat out there that, if you block a punt during a game, your chances of winning go up something like 80 percent. So, it’s a huge momentum swing, and that really kind of put the nail in the coffin of West G. Our sidelines were just excited as all heck for Kole.”
On the Wolverines’ lone trip to the red zone, when they were third-and-three on the 14-yard line, Kenston’s Staudenbaur forced a fumble, and Matty recovered it to hold West Geauga scoreless with 1:45 to go in the half.
The Wolverines (1-2) only had three possessions during a running clock in the second half for the 37-0 final.
Kenston’s Tomcufcik finished the night 15-of-25 passing for 206 yards and had four carries for 44 yards, while Stanley had three catches for 72 yards, junior Tyler Mintz had four catches for 46 yards and freshman Ryan Miller had four catches for 40 yards.
“At halftime, we basically said, ‘It’s 37-0, it’s a running clock, let’s let the twos eat in the second half and let them have some fun,’” Grubich said. “And there wasn’t much of a letdown. The kids were excited, and they were able to preserve the shutout. And, offensively, we kind of controlled the clock. It was just a good win for the program and the team.”
Improving to 3-0, Kenston was ranked No. 10 among Division III programs statewide when the first AP poll was released Monday.
Visit The Chagrin Valley Times to view their photos.