Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
September 10, 2020
The young Kenston gridders nearly gave the game away in more ways than one in crunch time, but they never crumbled during a 21-14 road victory against Madison on Friday night at Hamblin Field in Lake County.
The Bombers surrendered a 38-yard touchdown to open the fourth quarter, lost a fumble on the fringe of the red zone, lost a punt return on an errant bounce and had their backs against the wall with 1:32 to play.
But a key red-zone stop on fourth down and an interception in the end zone had the Kenston boys posting a dub in their season opener, after their week-one matchup against Mayfield got canceled because of coronavirus cases on the Wildcats’ side.
“There’s one thing I know about these kids; they’re going to show up, and they’re going to work their butts off every day,” Kenston ninth-year head coach Jeff Grubich said. “And they’re never going to complain, and they’re going to battle, and you saw that last night for four quarters. So, it’s a special group of kids.”
The score remained 0-0 through the opening frame, before the Blue Streaks struck first on a 27-yard touchdown toss from 6-foot-2 junior quarterback Michael O’Brien to 6-foot-1 senior receiver Noah Tweedy with 9:37 to go in the half.
Kenston attempted to respond but lost a fumble at the Madison 15-yard line.
On Kenston’s next possession, 5-foot-11 sophomore quarterback Nikko Georgiou connected with 205-pound senior running back Stanley Sell for a 16-yard gain and then 6-foot junior receiver Carson Rivera-Gebeau on a 14-yard gain to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Sell to tie the game, 7-7, with 1:04 left in the half.
In his first varsity start, “The Stanley Steamer” Sell had 29 carries for 189 yards and two receptions for 40 yards.
“We thought we could run the ball against those guys,” Grubich said. “But I was proud of him. He’s worked himself into that role, but we’ve got a real young offensive line, and, for those guys to pop the holes open like they were doing, I can only say one thing: I was proud of the kids and the coaches.”
Midway through the third quarter, Madison was fixing to retake the lead with a second-and-goal opportunity on the 5-yard line. But Kenston 5-foot-8 freshman defensive back Sean Patrick had other ideas.
The young buck intercepted a Blue Streak pass in the end zone and returned it 100 yards to swing the scoreboard in Kenston’s favor, 14-7, with 5:20 to go in the frame.
“He’s going to be a stud, man,” Grubich said of Patrick. “Basically, we were in man coverage, but he read the quarterback’s eyes, and he jumped an out route, picked it off and took it to the house the other way. He’s going to be really good. The thing is he’s 14 years old.”
After forcing a three-and-out punt, Kenston then went 53 yards on seven run plays that concluded with a 6-yard touchdown by Snell for a 21-7 upper hand with 21 seconds left in the third.
But Madison responded with another O’Brien to Tweedy touchdown toss, this one for 38 yards, to cut the Blue Streaks’ deficit, 21-14, with 11:14 remaining.
Then a little bit of chaos ensued, with Kenston losing a fumble at the Madison 22-yard line and with Madison keeping its ensuing possession alive when an errant punt touched a Kenston player and the Blue Streaks recovered it at the Bomber 40-yard line with 6:55 to play.
But Kenston’s defense stood tall on fourth down and regained possession at its own 11-yard line. A three-and-out punt, however, provided Madison a 52-yard field with 2:14 remaining to put together a game-tying drive. Once again, Patrick had other ideas.
On first down at the 26-yard line, Madison’s O’Brien aired a pass into the end zone, but it was picked of by Patrick, for his second interception of the night, and the Bombers ran off the rest of the clock for the victory.
“There’s no doubt we had some self-inflicted wounds,” Grubich said about two lost fumbles in addition to losing a punt return. “The good thing is, we got out of there with the ‘W,’ and we can watch the film and coach those things up. But that’s something we definitely have to work on and get better at.”
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