It wouldn’t be the first week of high school football without the annual “Battle of 422” and the 2022 season is no different with Chagrin Falls hosting neighborhood rivals Kenston.
For the Tigers, the opening game will be a test to see how far they’ve progressed during the off season.
“We obviously still need to establish an identity for ourselves so it’s still a lot of unknowns and just because it’s unknown doesn’t mean it can’t be a good thing,” said Chagrin Falls Coach John Scott. “There are a lot of good things that we can do well and we’re going to see if we can do that and hold that close to the vest.”
Once an annual event when the two teams were both part of the Chagrin Valley Conference, the clash of the crosstown rivals vanished in 2015 when the Bombers moved to the Western Reserve Conference, but the rivalry was picked back up two years later and Kenston has had Chagrin Falls’ number ever since winning five of the last seven games including the last four-in-a-row.
The Bombers, which have shut out the Tigers for two consecutive years, have outscored their rival 163-38 during the course of the last four years.
Kenston Coach Jeff Grubich said he’s looking forward to getting his team’s season underway.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do here at Kenston and we take a lot of pride in representing our community so we want to go down the street here, just a couple of miles down the road and we want to put on a good show play our best football,” he said.
The Tigers return just three players on offense though they do have experience at quarterback and running back with senior Nicholas Vinci resuming his duties at the signal-caller and Donny Hardy serving as the team’s primary running back.
Chagrin Falls’ lack of experience comes on the offensive line where they are replacing four of five offensive linemen, so the offensive line will be made up of underclassmen.
“They’re great kids and will have success,” the second-year Tigers’ coach said. “They have real strong and infectious personalities up there where you just love being around them. It’s just going to take time but I’m real positive in terms of the direction we’re headed.”
The Tigers will be tested in the trenches against an athletic Kenton defensive line which is comprised of seniors Jack Novak, Luke Leygraaf and David Clossin and Sean Doyle.
Kenston also returns it’s signal-caller and running back in senior Nikko Georgiou and junior Sean Patrick.
Georgiou only competed in three games last season due to a hand injury but is a dual threat as he has both the arm strength and speed to create his own offense. Patrick was Kenston’s leading rusher last year and looks to build off a dominant sophomore campaign.
Chagrin Falls returns most of its experience in the secondary with seniors Jackson Beavers, Jack Gaizutis and Grant Alberts and Scott hopes their length will give them an advantage.
The Bombers’ weakest position in terms of experience is actually in the wide receivers room with the majority of their receivers having graduated. Only sophomore Tymir Cardona returns with any varsity experience and will move to slot receiver after serving as the team’s outside receiver last year.
According to Grubich, the youth of the wide receivers will not deter Kenston from attacking via the passing game.
“If teams want to let us throw the rock the first week we’re going to throw the rock all over the yard,” the 11-year coach noted.
The Bombers also have a revamped offensive line with just Doyle and Leygraaf returning but Patrick and Georgiou’s experience should help bring the rest of their offensive lineman up to speed.
Kenston qualified for the Final Four of Division III, Region 9, last season and finished as runners-up in the WRC with a conference record of 5-1 while the Tigers failed to qualify for the postseason after compiling a 5-5 record.
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