• Dr. Herpy

Bomber gridders cruise by tender Wildcats, 42-28

Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
October 4, 2018
Tony Lange

The Division III AP No. 7-ranked Kenston gridders (6-0, 3-0) have got to a point where 233 yards passing by Jon Tomcufcik and 191 yards rushing by fellow junior Jack Porter are just side notes to a 42-28 homecoming victory against Mayfield.

Since rejoining the Western Reserve Conference in 2015, Mayfield was the only league foe the Bombers had yet to defeat. Kenston’s last win against the Wildcats came by way of a 10-0 struggle in the final week of the 2004 season.

And, despite losing a handle on the opening kickoff, there was nothing keeping the Bombers from dancing to the beat of another victory to stay undefeated on Friday night at their home stadium in Bainbridge.

The Kenston boys commanded an overwhelming 42-14 upper hand before Mayfield (2-4, 1-3) scored two garbage touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game.

“It was a good one,” Kenston seventh-year head coach Jeff Grubich said. “You know that you’re in this conference and you’re up good football teams and good football players. So, to get a team out of the way that got you last year, that always makes you feel a little bit better and makes you sleep a little bit better.”

With the 6-0 start to their campaign, the Bombers are chasing program history.

Even when Kenston football finished state runner-up in 1986, under head coach Paul Koballa, and again in 1995, under head coach Mike Knepp, the Bombers lost their first game during both of those seasons – with the lone blemish on the 1986 regular-season record coming against Mayfield.

The only Kenston team to finish the regular season at 10-0 was the 1981 Bombers under coach Zinn Gorby. Not to mention, the 1952 Bombers went 6-0 in their very first campaign under head coach Frank Tucek.

And although the 2018 Bombers snapped a three-game losing streak against Mayfield on Friday, fumbling the opening kickoff return to provide the Wildcats possession on a 25-yard field might have had some spectators thinking the rabbit foot must have been stowed away on the opposite side of the gridiron.

It was only Kenston’s second turnover of the season, and it was against a team that has had the Bombers’ number in the past three years with a 24.3-point average margin of victory.

“Mayfield came out and punched us right in the mouth,” Grubich said. “We had a decent return going and just got whacked. It was a textbook hit, and that ball popped out, and here we are sitting and going, ‘Oh, man. Here it goes.’”

On the Wildcats’ ensuing series, they ran a sweep and goofed up the exchange. Lo and behold, Kenston senior linebacker Matt Iklodi was there to put a lid on his fifth fumble recovery of the season.

One play later, senior Bransen Stanley collected an 83-yard touchdown reception from Tomcufcik for a 7-0 lead 41 seconds into the game.

“The offensive coaches did a great job all week of getting the game plan together, and, when they were looking at the film, that particular play with Bransen isolated on one of their guys would be a hit,” Grubich said. “Obviously, we didn’t know it would be that big of a hit. So, you’ve got to give credit to Bransen and Jonny for executing, and the O-line for protecting.”

As one of the best players in the WRC, Stanley is good for one big score more often than not, the coach said. He has 426 yards receiving this season with 40-plus-yard catches in four of six games.

Once the Bombers got going, they built a 29-7 lead by intermission with a 2-yard touchdown run by Tomcufcik, a 16-yard touchdown catch by Stanley and a 17-yard touchdown run by Porter that was followed by a two-point conversion toss from junior Jon Abbarno to sophomore Anthony Valocchi. Stanley also recovered a fumble before the break.

The Wildcats tried to get something going on a 65-yard touchdown toss from Michael Huss to Joey Isabella to cut their deficit, 29-14, with 9:39 to go in the third, but that was just one play.

Kenston’s run defense was thicker than a bowl of grandma’s chowder, holding the Wildcats to 76 yards on 26 carries. Mayfield’s longest run was just 12 yards.

“We do a great job of defending the run, and that’s playoff-caliber football,” Grubich said. “If you can’t stop the run, you’re going to have a long night. But we’ve got to figure out how to limit the big play for 48 minutes by rushing the passer and defending the pass.”

Kenston answered with junior Jay Middleton’s 18-yard touchdown run to put the lead back out to three possessions, 36-14, with 7:34 to go in the third quarter. And then senior defensive back Kole Jarzembak collected an interception to set up another Kenston scoring drive.

The Bombers put together an 11-play, 76-yard march that concluded with a 20-yard touchdown toss from Tomcufcik to junior Tyler Mintz for a 42-14 lead with 11:50 to play, before they took their foot off the pedal.

Tomcufcik finished 13-of-21 passing for 233 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, not to mention seven carries for 42 yards, while Porter had 33 carries for 191 yards and two catches for 35 yards, Stanley had two catches for 99 yards, Mintz had three catches for 39 yards, and 6-foot-5 freshman Ryan Miller had five catches for 50 yards.

Through six games, Tomcufcik has 1,290 yards passing on a 61.9 completion rate with no interceptions, while Porter has 838 yards rushing with an average gain of 5.8 yards per carry.

“You know, it’s a balance,” Grubich said. “Those two kids, they understand that they are a knockout one-two punch. If they want to take Jack Porter away in the run game, then Jonny can use his legs or his arm to make teams pay. As long as those two understand that they’re a one-two punch, that you’re going to have to share the football and take what defenses give you, then you’re going to be all right.”

Up next, Kenston will likely have its toughest test of the regular season when the Bombers host Riverside (5-1, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.