NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The South Range Raiders expected they would have to beat the Kirtland Hornets if they wanted to capture a Regional Championship. But the Hornets proved to be a juggernaut in Division V, Regional 17 playoffs as they throttled the Raiders 38-15 Saturday night at Bo Rein Stadium in Niles.
The Raider ends their season with a 13-1 record. The Hornets improve to 13-0 and will advance to the State Semi-finals where they will face Ottawa-Glendorf next Saturday.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Raiders coach Dan Yeagley said. “One game doesn’t define our season. The kids played hard, and they did everything we asked them all year. I love them so much. They fought for each other and that is special. They have to understand that there is more to it than just this one game. The memories they made in the locker room and everywhere else are going to be lifetime memories.”
“This is a special group of guys. We have been wanting this game for the past year now,” Raiders senior Logan Cormell added. “This team is very special and we just came together as one team.”
Watch the video for highlights of the game.
The Hornets set the tone defensively when their linebacker Will Sayle picked off a Billy Skripac pass intended for running back Dylan Dominguez and raced 40 yards for an early touchdown. That score came just 55-second into the contest.
But the Raiders answered as they scored on their next possession. The Raiders drove 60-yards on 8 plays with Skripac connecting with Connor Jones on a 16-yard pass. That knotted the game at 7-7 at the 7:22 mark of the first quarter.
The Hornets then showed what would eventually be the difference in the game as they methodically marched 68-yards on 13 plays with running back Mason Rus running in from 2-yards out. That gave the Hornets a 14-7 lead with only 19-second remaining in the first quarter.
Rus would rush for a game-high 117 yards on the night. The Hornets as a team would rack up 327 yards on the ground in the contest.
The Hornets would pad their advantage midway through the second quarter when Tommy Gogolin took a counter around right end 64-yards for a touchdown and a two-score advantage at 21-7. That Hornets touchdown came with 8:43 left in the first half.
But the Hornets would stick a real dagger in the Raiders to start the second half. They would march 65-yards, utilizing 16 plays and eating up a little over nine minutes of the third-quarter clock. Rus would plow into the endzone from just 1-yard out to give the Hornets a commanding 28-7 lead.
“They kept our offense off the field, which is what we needed on the field, and we just couldn’t get them behind the sticks. That is the sign of a good, well-coached team that they have,” Yeagley remarked.
They would add a 31-yard field goal by Johnny Raguz at the 6:10 mark of the final frame. That made it 31-7 in the Hornets’ favor.
The Raiders kept battling as they would score on a 37-yard run by Skripac with 4:38 remaining in the game. Dylan Dominguez added a two-point conversion to make it 31-15.
But the Hornets would close the game with a 17-yard pass from quarterback Ramon Lescano to Gage Sullivan to reach the final 38-15 score. The touchdown came with only 57-second remaining in the game.
“Maybe we will hit them again next year for the fourth time in a row,” Yeagley said with a smile. “They are going to be there, and hopefully we are there.”
The win for Kirtland is the Hornets’ 54th-straight win.