Different year, same result.
The Chardon Hilltoppers football team had one more non-conference game left on their schedule and took care of business with a 21-0 victory against New Philadelphia last Friday night at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium.
“New Philadelphia played us hard,” said coach Mitch Hewitt. “It was not backing down. Defensively it gave us all we could handle in the second half. It outplayed us in the second half. Our defense continued to dominate but our offense struggled.”
Normally the teams would not have seen each other again until the postseason but Chardon had an opening. After Brush departed the Western Reserve Conference last year, the Hilltoppers needed to fill a game on their schedule. The Quakers had a vacancy on their schedule the same week Chardon did so it made sense for a rematch.
Chardon (7-0, 3-0) knows the Quakers well.
Last year, the two teams squared off in a Division III Region 9 semifinal contest which saw the Hilltoppers knock off New Philadelphia 31-0 in their march to the Division III
The Hilltoppers relied on senior fullback Sean Carr to ignite the offense to open the game. The 5-foot-11 fullback gave the Hilltoppers out to a 7-0 lead when he punched the ball in on a 2-yard run.
Carr continued to have the hot hand and pushed Chardon out to a 21-0 lead on a pair of touchdown runs in the second quarter. His first touchdown came on a 3-yard run and dialed up his second on a 1-yard rush.
“Sean’s playing a like a captain,” said the 11-year coach. “He’s a senior. He’s played a lot of football for us and is easy to root for.”
Carr racked up 92 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the game.
The Hilltoppers’ defense played a huge role in setting up Carr’s second touchdown of the quarter. Senior defensive lineman Christian Hall got his hands up and intercepted a tipped pass to set Chardon up at the Quakers’ 20-yard line.
“It’s a huge play any time you take the ball away,” noted Hewitt. “It’s the second most important stat in the game of football aside from the score.”
Hall is one of the few returning starters on the defensive and has played a huge role in the front four.
“Christian rushes the passer primarily and plays hard against the run,” said Hewitt. “He’s a super talented kid. He’s explosive and plays faster than he is.”
After seeing everything go their way in the first half, it was the complete opposite in the second half.
“Defensively and offensively, it was all going our way in the first half,” said Hewitt. “In the second half, we didn’t execute on offense. We turned the ball over and had penalties including personal fouls on defense. It was a ugly second half but I think our kids are going to learn from it and get better.”
The Hilltoppers allowed New Philadelphia to hang around by committing three turnovers in the second half. They also fumbled the ball twice but recovered each one.
“We came out flat,” said Hewitt. “We didn’t stay focused. We have to be mature enough to handle leads at halftime. It was the same against Youngstown Ursuline as it was last Friday night. It’s been a little bit of an Achilles heel for us.”
Junior quarterback Alex Henry suffered his worst game of the season as he threw for just 17 passing yards and recorded three interceptions in the first half.
Although the Quakers had new life, the Hilltoppers’ defense continued to do what they have done all season and clamped down on New Philadelphia’s offense.
Chardon has now not surrendered a touchdown over its last ten quarters of play dating back to its victory over conference rival Mayfield on Sep. 17.
“The defense is playing really hard and very fast,” Hewitt said. “We’ve been healthy for the most part so that’s been great. It’s been a great complement all season. We’ve relied heavily on our defense to put us in position to score. They’ve scored a bunch.”
The Hilltoppers will welcome conference rival Madison to Chardon Memorial Field on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.