The Kenston gridders (7-1, 4-1) got their bounce-back win, but there was definitely some sweat involved during a 26-14 home result against Western Reserve Conference foe Madison (3-5, 2-3) on Friday night in Bainbridge.
The host AP No. 7-ranked Bombers took a 7-0 lead on senior running back Jack Porter’s 30-yard touchdown run with 6:51 left in the opening frame, but that was the gist of Kenston’s offense in the first half.
On six drives, Kenston didn’t take a single snap from the red zone before intermission, and its pass game was ice cold with zero completions on seven attempts.
Defensively, Kenston also kept Madison out of the red zone, with senior defensive back Alex Castro picking off a 20-plus-yard toss by Blue Streak 6-foot-1 senior quarterback Alex Dragas at the Bombers’ 14-yard line with 4:30 left in the half.
But Madison returned the favor and picked off Kenston on the next play to regain possession on a 16-yard field. The Blue Streaks capitalized on Dragas’ 13-yard touchdown run for a 7-7 game with 3:30 to go in the half.
Its lowest scoring first half since a 38-12 loss to Mayfield in week six of the 2017 season, Kenston came out and meant business in the third quarter.
During the second play of the frame, 170-pound senior linebacker Frank DiMarco forced a Blue Streak fumble, and 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior lineman George Sell recovered it on a 25-yard field.
Four rushes later, Porter found the end zone on a 14-yard run and a 13-7 lead with 9:48 left in the quarter – the ensuing extra-point attempt was blocked. Porter would finish the night with 27 carries for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Kenston’s defense then held Madison to 5 yards on its next series and made use of a 61-yard field. Bomber senior receiver Jay Middleton scored on a 36-yard touchdown catch from senior quarterback Jon Tomcufcik for a 19-7 lead with 6:10 to go in the third quarter.
The Blue Streaks were fixing to answer on a 10-play drive, but Kenston’s defense turned them over on downs at the 25-yard line.
Kenston faced a third-and-20 on its next drive, after a personal foul, but signal-caller Tomcufcik broke loose on a 56-yard jaunt to set the Bombers up at first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. But Kenston was stuffed three times, had to settle for a 21-yard field goal attempt and missed splitting the uprights. The score remained 19-7 with 10:04 to play.
Then things got interesting when Madison’s offense orchestrated a 17-play, 80-yard drive, converting three third downs and a fourth down along the way, before junior Brad McKeon punched in a 5-yard touchdown to trim the Blue Streaks’ deficit, 19-14, with 3:28 to play.
Kenston junior Stanley Sell recovered Madison’s ensuing kickoff and returned it 6 yards to his own 46-yard line. Three plays later, Bomber senior slotback Tyler Mintz reopened a two-possession lead, 26-14, on a 50-yard touchdown reception from Tomcufcik with 2:57 to play for the eventual final.
Overall, Kenston outgained Madison, 330 yards to 260 yards, on 45 plays to the Blue Streaks’ 71 plays. Bomber senior linebacker Logan Vargo finished with a team-high 19 tackles, including one for loss, while junior linebacker Alec Kolenic cleaned up with nine tackles.
With the win, the Bombers sit at the No. 5 spot in the Division III, Region 9 computer rankings and control their own destiny in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Up next, Kenston will hit the road to take on Riverside (4-4, 3-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in Painesville.