The Gilmour Academy gridders liked their chances if they had a lead entering the fourth quarter of their home battle against Division IV Warrensville Heights on Saturday afternoon at Weber Stadium in Gates Mills.
Although that lead was just 7-6 after three quarters, the Lancers take pride in their gas tanks and knew the visiting Tigers were short on numbers.
“Warrensville had four, five kids going down with cramps and stuff, and our guys, you know, it was another defensive game and obviously very tight throughout the whole game,” Gilmour fifth-year head coach Chris Kosiorek said.
“So, I thought one of the things we told them at halftime was that we were the better-conditioned team,” he said. “You know, that’s kind of what we pride ourselves on in the offseason, and we’ve just got to withstand some of their big plays.”
Gilmour took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 14-yard touchdown run by 5-foot-6, 170-pound freshman running back Santino Harper, who appears to be the next big thing for the Lancers.
After scoring his first high school touchdown on an 85-yard kickoff return during a 28-21 overtime loss against St. Thomas Aquinas the previous week, Harper was the workhorse with 28 carries for 182 yards against Warrensville Heights on Saturday.
“We’re going to feed the hot hand,” Kosiorek said about a stable of five running backs, which featured senior Connor Krebs’ 10 carries for 140 yards the previous week.
“(Harper) has got a great first step, and he’s very shifty, and we were obviously very excited when he came to Gilmour,” Kosiorek said. “And he’s a young man who’s got a bright future. So, it was nice to see him get off as well as he has.”
That 7-0 upper hand held up at intermission, but the Tigers broke loose on a 65-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to trim their deficit, 7-6.
“The big run that they had; it was legit,” Kosiorek said. “They caught us and outran us. Obviously, we don’t want to give up a big play, but, outside of that, I think we kept them in check. I think we forced three turnovers, which were big as well, and I think that has a lot to do with our guys being aggressive and understanding that, if you can get some turnovers in a game, especially a close game, it’s going to be the difference.”
In particular, Gilmour 215-pound junior lineman Jimmy McCrone recovered a pair of fumbles, and 6-foot-2 senior defensive back Aidan Muchnicki collected an interception.
McCrone, who also had a fumble recovery the previous week, is one of the hardest-working gridders the Lancers have, and good things happen to guys who continue to push and push, Kosiorek said.
Gilmour answered back in the fourth quarter, when 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore quarterback Dan Jevnikar punched in a 1-yard touchdown run for a 14-6 upper hand.
“Jevnikar’s touchdown was after (Harper’s) two or three big runs,” Kosiorek said. “So, it was definitely ball control. But Jev came in the game in the second half and gave us a good boost, and he had a couple big carries to continue some drives.”
Later in the fourth, Harper put the game away with his second touchdown on a 19-yard carry to provide the Lancers a 21-6 upper hand, which held up for the final.
Although the Lancers did most of their damage by ground, 6-foot-2 senior receiver Nate Reichard finished with three catches for 15 yards, and 175-pound sophomore running back Mick Hopkins had two receptions for 14 yards.
“I kept telling the kids we can win if we have to, 7-6,” Kosiroek said. “We just have to maintain our defensive side, because we’re playing very well. And outside that big run, there was never a huge threat. I mean, yeah, they drove, and obviously we don’t want to be in those types of games, but we proved within the last couple of years that defensively we could keep teams out of the end zone and at least be in the game with a chance to win in the end, like the last two weeks.”
University School 14
The University School gridders got their first taste of defeat in 2019, but they faced perhaps the toughest foe on their schedule during a 49-14 road loss against Bellevue on Friday night in Sandusky County.
The host Division IV Redmen jumped out to a 7-0 lead when junior Keegan Ray tossed a 19-yard touchdown to senior receiver Caleb Marshall less than three minutes into the game. Ray would finish eight-of-11 passing for 183 yards, with four of his completions going to Marshall for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
But Bellevue inflicted the majority of its damage with 281 yards rushing, including 20 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns by Ray. The signal-caller scored on a 4-yard keeper with 2:09 left in the opening frame.
The Redmen recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Ray capitalized on an 8-yard keeper for a 21-0 upper hand with 23 seconds left in the first quarter.
But University won the turnover battle, 3-1, with senior linebacker Joe Averill collecting a fumble recovery with seven tackles and a sack; junior linebacker George von Zedlitz recovering a fumble with five tackles; senior safety Max Young forcing a fumble with five tackles; and senior lineman Miles McIlvaine forcing a fumble with eight tackles and a sack.
One of those fumble recoveries came early in the second quarter, and the Preppers capitalized with senior Nic Pujolas completing a halfback pass to senior tight end Parker Crowley for a 40-yard touchdown to trim the deficit, 21-7, with 8:43 left in the half.
Later in the frame, Pujolas caught a 29-yard pass from junior quarterback Ricky Radtke to set up Radtke’s 10-yard touchdown run to trim the deficit, 28-14, with 3:34 to go in the half.
Bellevue’s Marshall answered on a 17-yard touchdown catch with 57 seconds left to provide the Redmen a 35-14 upper hand at intermission.
The second half got away from University for the 49-14 final.
Overall, Bellevue outgained US, 446 yards to 219 yards, with 20 first downs to the Preppers’ eight.
Radtke finished 13-of-31 passing for 125 yards and had 10 carries for 36 yards; while senior running back Dylan Loconti had 10 carries for 18 yards and four catches for 15 yards; Pujolas had five catches for 72 yards; and Crowley had four catches for 73 yards.
Up next, University will travel to take on Willoughby South at 7 p.m. Friday at Harry E. Winters Stadium in Lake County.