GRANGER TWP. — It was the second-highest scoring football game in Medina County history, but it wasn’t high enough for the Highland Hornets.
The Hornets fell 56-51 to North Royalton on Friday night in a non-league game that featured 1,069 yards total offense and 136 offensive plays.
The only time a game involving a county team featured more points was when Medina nipped Spencer 159-6 on Oct. 5, 1923.
“That was awesome, but unfortunately we couldn’t pull through at the end,” Highland quarterback Bruce Kinsey said. “It was a great game to be part of.”
On a night when 70 points were scored in the second half and there were eight touchdowns of at least 20 yards, including five of 52 yards or more, Kinsey nearly led the Hornets (2-1) to a thrilling comeback victory over the Bears (3-0).
The junior completed 20-of-37 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 76 yards and two scores. His passing yardage obliterated the school record of 269 set by Brian Hopkins against Norton in 1982.
“For a junior making his first start at home, he was fantastic,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “He hung in there and took advantage of whatever they gave us.”
Despite Kinsey’s heroics — he completed nine passes for 159 yards to Cory Moncol alone — the Hornets never led.
In fact, Highland was down 35-16 and 42-24 in the third period, but three times pulled within a touchdown of taking the lead in the fourth quarter.
On only one of those occasions, however, did the Hornets get the ball back before allowing North Royalton to score a TD.
That came on Highland’s last possession, when it forced one of five punts in the game — three by the Bears — and took over on its own 20 with 1:43 on the clock and no timeouts left.
A Kinsey 3-yard run and three incompletions later, the Hornets were finally done.
“I had a lot of confidence in our offense — 100 percent,” Kinsey said. “I just missed a couple passes (to Moncol). If I make those plays, we still have a chance. We just didn’t score when it counted the most.”
Without Kinsey, the Hornets would have had no chance, period, but he was far from their only weapon. Highland ran an incredible 94 plays and accumulated 563 yards, with 19 of its plays — six rushes and 13 passes — going for at least 10 yards.
Human bowling ball Adam Kluk rushed 20 times for 113 yards and a TD, with the 5-foot-8, 205-pound fullback doing most of his damage in the second half, when he repeatedly knocked over exhausted North Royalton defenders.
Tailback Kent Masters scored Highland’s first touchdown on a 23-yard run, while Moncol had a 52-yard TD, a 47-yard catch and four other grabs of at least 10 yards.
Coltin Kinsey had a 53-yard TD reception among his four catches for 66 yards, while tight ends Dylan McVay (3 for 50) and Austin Adams (3-38) combined for six catches for 88 yards.
The problem for Highland was it gave up even more big plays than it made, which is why it lost a game where it ran 52 more plays than its opponent and held a 30-14 edge in first downs.
“We didn’t have an answer for them all night long,” said Lombardo, who successfully went for it three times on fourth down and tried an array of onside and pooch kicks, to no avail. “They were doing a lot of stuff.”
Both teams tackled poorly and played even worse pass defense, but the offenses had something to do with that.
North Royalton quarterback Travis Tarnowski was 11-for-15 passing for 215 yards and three TDs — 39- and 20-yarders to Austin Smith and a 10-yarder to Mike Hudec. Tarnowski rushed 12 times for 88 yards, including TD runs of 1, 24 and 58 yards, meaning he accounted for six scores.
The Bears also got an 80-yard TD run on their first play from tailback Carl Lint, who later added a 50-yard non-scoring jaunt en route to a nine-carry, 136-yard night, two catches for 84 yards from Nick Krempasky and a 71-yard TD run from Smith, who was playing his first game of the season.
Smith’s TD run came one play after a highly questionable spot left North Royalton facing fourth-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter. That Bears coach Nick Ciulli went for it deep in his own territory with his team leading 49-44 — after Highland called timeout to set its defense — is a pretty good indicator of how wide open this game was.
North Royalton finished with 516 yards on 42 plays, a 12.3-yard average. The Bears rushed 26 times for 301 yards, an 11.6-yard average. They had rushing plays that went for 50, 58, 71 and 80 yards and passing plays that went for 35, 39 and 49 yards.
“They’ve done this to everyone so far,” Lombardo said of the Bears, who have scored 148 points in three games. “Certainly, we have to get better on defense, but you have to give them credit.
“Both offenses did a great job. It would have been easy to have folded, but our guys gave us a chance to win on the last drive. I’m very proud of how hard we played.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Royalton 56, Highland 51
NORTH ROYALTON 14 7 21 14 — 56
HIGHLAND 7 9 15 20 — 51
N — Carl Lint 80 run (Casey Mayell kick), 6:45.
H — Kent Masters 23 run (Joe Simonis kick), 1:30.
N — Travis Tarnoowski 58 run (Mayell kick), 0:02.5.
H — Tanner Houska 7 pass from Bruce Kinsey (pass failed), 7:47.
N — Austin Smith 39 pass from Tarnowski (Mayell kick), 5:55.
H — Simonis 29 field goal, 0:08.1.
N — Mike Hudec 10 pass from Tarnowski (Mayell kick), 9:50.
N — Smith 20 pass from Tarnowski (Mayell kick), 7:20.
H — Cory Moncol 52 pass from Kinsey (Austin Adams pass from Kinsey), 6:04.
N — Tarnowski 1 run (Mayell kick), 4:56.
H — Kinsey 2 run (Simonis kick), 0:37.5.
H — Coltin Kinsey 53 pass from Bruce Kinsey (run failed), 11:01.
N — Tarnowski 16 run (Mayell kick), 9:46.
H — Adam Kluk 1 run (Simonis kick), 7:29.
N — Smith 71 run (Mayell ick), 6:03.
H — B. Kinsey 2 run (Simonis kick), 2:51.