Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
November 8, 2018
Division III, Region 9
No. 3 Buckeye Bucks (10-1) vs. No. 2 Kenston Bombers (10-1)
7 p.m. Friday
Bedford Bearcat Stadium
The Division III AP No. 4-ranked Kenston gridders (10-1) will be chasing their program’s first regional semifinal victory since 1995 when they collide with the Medina Buckeye Bucks (10-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at neutral site Bearcat Stadium in Bedford.
The Region 9 second-seeded Bombers are coming off a 48-34 home victory against Millersburg West Holmes (8-3) in a game they collected three interceptions and scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game for the two-possession difference.
Kenston senior cornerback Dorion Talley came up with a game-defining pick with 4:51 to play and the score locked, 34-34, before Bomber junior running back Jack Porter went on to score on 14- and 38-yard touchdown runs to tuck West Holmes’ season in for bed.
Although the Bombers turned the ball over three times, after only giving up five turnovers throughout the entirety of the regular season, their defense forced four turnovers: Talley had an interception, senior linebacker Matt Iklodi had a fumble recovery and an interception, and junior defensive back Tyler Mintz had a pick.
And Kenston’s offense continued to churn all night for 493 yards, including 206 yards passing by junior Jon Tomcufcik, 208 yards rushing by Porter, 98 yards receiving by Mintz and 84 yards receiving by junior Jay Middleton.
“It was just a great night for Kenston in general,” seventh-year head coach Jeff Grubich said. “We got to showcase our beautiful facilities here, our community was well-represented here, a ton of support, and we were able to get the first playoff victory ever, in (67) years, at home, and got to celebrate with the fans at home and the coaches and players. So, it’s just a special night.”
Although the Bombers twice surrendered two-touchdown leads against West Holmes and gave up more points than they have all season, that’s playoff football.
While West Holmes chucked the ball all over the yard against Kenston, with 253 of its 315 yards coming by air, the Bombers can expect something a little different in their round-two matchup against Buckeye, which owns the three seed in the region.
“Well, they’re the exact opposite of what we just saw,” Grubich said. “They’re a big, physical football team. They play great defense, and they want to pound the ball. They’re in the ‘I,’ and they just want to rip off 3, 4 yards at a time. So, every week it’s a different thing. You’ve got to keep changing up, keep changing up, keep developing and keep getting better.”
The Buckeye Bucks, under second-year head coach Greg Dennison, who previously coached 21 seasons with a 148-77 record at Wadsworth, are coming off their program’s first playoff victory with a 28-25 come-from-behind effort against Alliance (7-4).
Buckeye is competing in the playoffs for the sixth straight year, but the Bucks were 0-9 overall in the postseason before their triumph last week.
In a wild finish against Alliance last Friday, the Bucks were leading, 21-19, and drove down to the 14-yard line but fumbled the pigskin with 2:07 to play. On the very next play, Alliance completed an 80-yard touchdown play to go up, 25-21, with 1:53 to play.
Buckeye then had 1:48 remaining to drive 64 yards, but the Bucks only needed one play: a 64-yard screen pass by junior quarterback Jacob Doerge to 170-pound senior slotback Anthony Watkins, who broke tackles and went the distance for a touchdown and the eventual 28-25 final.
That was Doerge’s lone completion of the game on three attempts for the Bucks.
Offensively, Buckeye finished with 309 yards, 245 yards by ground, with Doerge gaining 120 yards on 17 carries, including a 53-yard touchdown run, and with 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior Dominic Monaco gaining 98 yards on 18 carries.
Defensively, Buckeye surrendered 344 yards, including 211 rushing on 50 carries by Alliance.
The Bucks’ lone loss this season came during a 43-6 spanking from Revere (6-4) in week one. But seven of Buckeye’s nine wins in the regular season came against lower-division league opponents: four Division IV, one Division V and two Division VI programs.
“I tell my kids all the time, when you get to the second round of the playoffs, there ain’t nobody to sleep on,” Grubich said. “Everybody that’s left deserves to be there. It’s a good football team that’s well-coached, so you better expect to play four quarters of football in the playoffs and strap your helmet on tight, or you’re going to be in trouble.”
Kenston and Buckeye have never met on the gridiron.
TONY’S TAKE: Kenston wins, 34-21.