The question is no longer who can beat Kenston but rather, who can score points against Kenston?
The Bomber gridders went for the jugular against rival Chagrin Falls in the 62nd battle of Old Route 422 on Friday night, when the silver bullets posted their second straight shutout, 55-0, during a home opener in Bainbridge.
On offense, the end-zone party was all-inclusive with seven guys scoring touchdowns, including five guys for 41 points in the first half.
Kenston’s last shutout against the Tigers came by way of a 28-0 skunking in 2006, but the 55-0 result on Friday was the Bombers’ largest margin of victory against any opponent since a 55-0 thumping of old Chagrin Valley Conference foe Orange in 1983, under then-head coach Zinn Gorby.
But Kenston’s largest margin of victory in program history was a 58-0 shutout against Crestwood in 1971, when coach Jack Bair was at the helm, according to the Bomber football 2019 media guide.
“No, not really,” said Kenston 6-foot-4, 265-pound offensive tackle George Sell, a Wake Forest commit, when asked if he expected to run the show against Chagrin Falls like the Bombers did on Friday night.
“I mean, I always expect the opponent to be just as good as us,” he said. “We always want to treat ourselves like we’re the underdogs. That’s kind of installed into our heads. So, we just came out and respected the opponent.”
On defense, Kenston’s respect came in the form of 285-pound senior lineman Max Czech’s sack of Chagrin Falls 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior quarterback Dawson Pierce on the second play of the game.
In the second quarter, Kenston 195-pound senior lineman Eric Dombrowski was taking down Pierce for a loss in the backfield when 190-pound junior linebacker Alec Kolenic came in for a second hit that knocked the pigskin loose and 170-pound senior linebacker Frank DiMarco recovered it.
At intermission, the silver bullets had surrendered just three first downs – one coming on a roughing-the-punter penalty – and 84 yards to the Tigers.
“If I could pride our defense on anything, it’d be gang tackling,” said 190-pound senior linebacker Logan Vargo, a third-year starter. “It’s not one guy going in there making all the plays. It’s everyone coming in and making tackles and working together. And that’s what helps with those big guys like (Pierce). I mean, we don’t have a ton of big guys on our defense, but when we get five guys coming up and just piling on top, they’re not going anywhere.”
Offensively, Kenston got going left, right, over, under, through – every which way one could imagine.
In particular, senior receiver Jay Middleton opened the scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep; senior running back Jack Porter punched in a 1-yard score on the heels of a 24-yard catch by 6-foot-5 sophomore tight end Ryan Miller; and senior receiver Tyler Mintz busted free from the would-be tackles of two defensive backs on a 52-yard touchdown catch from senior quarterback Jon Tomcufcik for the 20-0 upper hand at the quarter mark.
In the second quarter, Miller caught a 14-yard toss on a fade route for his first varsity touchdown; Porter broke some Tiger ankles on an 18-yard touchdown run with a bounce to the outside; and senior Jonathan Abbarno caught a 9-yard toss from Tomcfucik on another route to the corner of the end zone for his first varsity touchdown and the 41-0 lead at the break.
“We’ve just been extremely balanced,” Porter said of so many different weapons on offense. “We’re not really looking for individual touches. It’s just whatever we have to do to get a touchdown on that drive and whatever we have to do to win the game.”
Porter ended the first half with 10 carries for 88 yards and two catches for 14 yards, but, with a running clock for the entirety of the second half, the all-Ohio running back would only get two more touches for the remainder of the night.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Porter had 25- and 17-yard pickups before Tomcufcik would score on a 6-yard keeper for the 48-0 upper hand with 7:38 remaining in the frame.
With those two chunk plays, Porter finished with 130 yards rushing for his 20th consecutive game eclipsing the century mark, becoming just the sixth player in Ohio High School Athletic Association history to do so.
“I’m not looking at it like that,” he said about his streak. “I’m just trying to get a win each week. Whatever the team needs, I’ll provide.”
Kenston began making substitutions after that drive.
A muffed punt provided Chagrin Falls a 30-yard field in the final minute of the third quarter, but the Tigers fumbled on the first play of the drive, and linebacker Kolenic recovered it.
The Bombers’ offense turned around and put together a seven-play, 65-yard drive, with freshman quarterback Nikko Georgiou completing three tosses for 40 yards and senior running back Joe Martin getting two carries for 20 yards, including an 11-yard end-zone find for his first varsity touchdown and a 55-0 lead with 7:20 to play.
But the Bomber reserves weren’t finished with their highlight reels.
On a first-down toss by Chagrin Falls late in the fourth quarter, Kenston freshman defensive back Lucas Simmons stripped a Tiger receiver and returned the turnover 38 yards down to the 7-yard line, allowing his offense to line up in victory formation.
Each time a reserve made a big play in the second half, Kenston’s veterans went berserk on the sideline or stormed the field to celebrate.
“This is a family,” Vargo said. “I play other sports, and football, I mean, it brings people together – the practice, the team dinners, my family is on this team. And when I see one of those guys make a great play, we’re all running out there, and we’re all celebrating, because those are our brothers.”
Overall, Kenston outgained Chagrin, 483 yards to 128 yards, and won the turnover battle, 3-0.
Kenston now has 11 straight quarters of shutout football going back to last year’s Division III state championship game. Since they were last scored on, the Bombers have outdone their opponents, 132-0.
Considering the 2016 Kenston gridders were 2-8 – when this year’s seniors were freshmen – and now eighth-year head coach Jeff Grubich is asking his guys to go out and try to get a running clock each week, the Bombers don’t have time to feel sorry for their opponents if they want to continue moving forward.
“It definitely motivated us. From 2-8, we worked our butts off,” lineman Sell said. “And then my sophomore year, when we went 8-2 and didn’t make the playoffs, that motivated us even more. So, yeah, our goal this year as a program is to score 30 points every half.”