NILES, Ohio (WKBN) –
The combination of Luke Gardner and Mason Sullivan was too much for the South Range Raiders as the top-seeded Kirtland Hornets used a punishing rushing attack to win 38-7 over the Raiders in a DV-Region 17 quarterfinal contest at Bo Rein Stadium Saturday night. The Hornets will now play Akron Manchester next Friday in a Regional Championship.
The Raiders came into the season knowing they could face the notorious Hornets if they had a successful season and made the playoffs. The Hornets have either won or finished runner-up in the state championships in seven of the past eight years. The Raiders were relying on the tougher competition of the NE8 to help prepare them.
“You can’t judge that,” Raiders head coach Dan Yeagley stated about the level of competition. “You can’t do that because there are other facets involved. Playoff game, playoff atmosphere, obviously we played against some great teams this year. The league is good and it got us to where we needed to be and we are playing a bunch of young kids and the seniors showed them the way and now it’s our turn to run with the ball for next year.”
“It was a special season playing in the new league. It was our main goal to get back into the playoffs and we did that,” Raider senior captain Anthony Czap remarked. “We fell a little short of what we did two years ago, but overall it was a good season.”
But Hornets tailback Luke Gardner ran for 191 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries, and fullback Mason Sullivan added 159 yards on 24 attempts and one score to overpower the Raiders on the night.
“You have two different dimensions,” Yeagley said of the Hornets running backs. “You have a guy that will pound at you, and a guy who will run around you. Good coaching on their part they did a great job.”
The Hornets jumped out on top of the Raiders 14-0 in the first quarter with a 58 yard run by Gardner through the center of the Raiders defense on just the second play from scrimmage for the Hornets. Gardner would add a 12-yard run later in the quarter to give the Hornets an early advantage.
“Them or Poland are the best teams we have seen all year,” Czap said of the Hornets squad. “They are a very physical and tough team.”
But the Raiders battled back as they took advantage of a short field following a short punt by the Hornets. Taking over at the Hornets 38, they put together a 9-play drive with quarterback Michale Patrone running in from 4-yards out at the 5:16 mark of the second quarter.
“The speed of the game. Their defense plays fast, their offense plays fast. We came in a little nervous, we did last week but you have to calm down and settle down,” Yeagley explained the slow start for the Raiders.
The Hornets took full control of the game in the second half as they took their opening possession and scored on an 8-yard run by Sullivan to make it 21-7. That score came at the 9:00 minute mark of the third quarter.
Following an exchange of turnovers, the Hornets put distance between them and the Raiders with another Gardner touchdown run with 4:05 remaining in the third stanza. This time it was a 23-yard scamper around left end to make it 28-7.
Kirtland would add a 21-yard touchdown run by Gardner with 9:46 remaining in the game to make it 35-7, and Mario Rodin would add the final points to the game with a 23-yard field goal with only 1:10 left in the contest.
“It was a great season and I’m very proud of these kids,” Yeagley said. “Our younger players have played in the NE8 now.”
The Raiders, who close the season with an 8-4 record, were led by Dylan Dominguez with 44 yards on 12 carries, while Patrick McCabe added 21 yards on 7 attempts. Patrone would complete 5 of 14 passing attempts for 33 yards. The Raiders were held to just 119 yards rushing on the night on 32 attempts.
SOUTH RANGE 0-7-0-0=7
KT – Luke Gardner 58 run (Mario Rodin Kick)
KT – Gardner 12 run (Rodin Kick)
SR – Michael Patrone 4 Run (Logan Weaver Kick)
KT – Mason Sullivan 8 run (Rodin Kick)
KT – Gardner 23 run (Nico Podojil Kick)
KT – Gardner 21 run (Rodin Kick)
KT – Rodin 23 Field Goal