GRANGER TWP. — The Highland Revenge Tour went off without a hitch.
Behind an opportunistic defense that fueled a lightning-fast scoring burst Friday, the Hornets defeated Tallmadge 49-26 in Suburban League action.
It was the last of three showdowns against opponents that defeated Highland (6-0, 3-0) last season — North Royalton and Copley were the others — and coach Tom Lombardo’s team won them by a combined 147-54 count.
“These last few weeks have been about payback against North Royalton, Copley and now Tallmadge,” quarterback Bruce Kinsey said. “It’s great to get those wins. It means a bunch for the Suburban League and the computer points for the playoffs. We’ve just got to keep it rolling.”
The Hornets took control with a 21-0 run over a 3:39 stretch midway through the second half. A defense led by lineman Myles Houska, linebacker Grant Wallace and corner Cory Moncol set up the scores with two punts and a near pick-six.
Reigning Gazette MVP Kinsey (16-for-20, 251 yards; 21 carries, 112 yards; 3 combined TDs) took care of the rest. The senior ran or passed on 10 of the Hornets’ 13 plays and compiled 152 of the 157 yards total offense.
When the dust settled, Highland led 42-21 with 11:04 remaining after 2-yard run by Nick Corvo, a 28-yard pass from Kinsey to Coltin Kinsey and 1-yard plunge by Alex Harris.
“We needed to bring it up a notch,” said Wallace, who had 2½ tackles for loss, “and that’s what we did.”
Highland held only a 21-14 halftime advantage because Bruce Kinsey threw an interception on the Tallmadge 10-yard line and Luke Allen missed a 38-yard field goal.
Tallmadge received the ball to begin the second half, and immediately pounded Bobby Clark (15 carries, 69 yards) off-tackle behind 6-foot-6, 290-pound Ohio University recruit Joe Lowery.
The Blue Devils (4-2, 2-1) ran 12 plays and burned 7:18 of clock, but Houska broke up a third-down tunnel screen. Kinsey then rumbled 39 yards on a read option to set up Corvo’s TD.
The rout was on from that point. Highland forced a three-and-out before the Kinsey brothers struck, and Moncol returned an interception 34 yards to the Blue Devils 1 after dropping a sure pick-six against Joseph Vassalotti (9-for-24, 214 yards, 3 TDs) the play before.
During the 21-0 spurt, the Hornets allowed 7 yards and Vassalotti was 0-for-6 due to two drops, Houska’s breakup and Moncol’s INT.
The difference was tangible.
“We ran our assignments. That’s all it really was,” Moncol said. “In the first half, we played a little bit sloppy and didn’t come out as hard as we should have. In the second half, we made our adjustments.”
“It was huge,” Bruce Kinsey added. “They got the ball and drove down the field, but the defense made big stops and got the offense the ball.”
When it got the rock, Highland’s offense was incredibly efficient.
With Tallmadge bringing heavy pressure off the edge in an effort to stop the Hornets’ staple, the read option, Kinsey went to work through the air. He completed 12-of-15 passes in the first half — the lone hiccup was the red zone interception — then rushed for 81 yards on just six totes when lanes opened in the second.
Kinsey spread the wealth, too, because of double coverage on Moncol (4 receptions, 49 yards). Coltin Kinsey (career highs of 7 catches and 124 yards) and Collin Paich (4, 60), who caught a 5-yard TD in the first half, were the main beneficiaries.
Great field position had a lot to do with it as well, as Tallmadge failed on two onside kicks and three very short pooch attempts.
“Coach Lombardo is so persistent,” said Bruce Kinsey, whose team got on the board when usual starting right guard Tyler Frederick powered in out of the stack-I formation. “He wants to run and he wants to run well, so we just kept grinding. The line (Tyler Gienger, Houska, Tanner Ramey, Frederick and Michael Doak) blocked very well and we took it from there.”
Now 6-0 for the first time since 2008, the Hornets are firing on all cylinders heading into the homestretch.
Revenge has a lot to do with it.
“We’re so pumped,” Wallace said. “We’ve just got to keep it going. We need to stay focused and take it game by game.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland 49, Tallmadge 26
TALLMADGE 7 7 0 12 — 26
HIGHLAND 7 14 7 21 — 49
H — Tyler Frederick 1 run (Luke Allen kick), 6:25.
T — Latrele Moore 65 pass from Joseph Vassalotti (Justin Stevenor kick), 5:55.
T — Jason Wiebrecht 9 pass from Vassalotti (Stevenor kick), 10:26.
H — Collin Paich 5 pass from Bruce Kinsey (Allen kick), 9:08.
H — Kinsey 1 run (Allen kick), 4:28.
H — Nick Corvo 2 run (Allen kick), 2:43.
H — Coltin Kinsey 28 pass from B. Kinsey (Allen kick), 11:24.
H — Alex Harris 1 run (Allen kick), 11:04.
T — Joseph Siesel 34 pass from Vassalotti (kick failed), 9:39.
H — Harris 26 run (Allen kick), 7:33.
T — Bobby Clark 2 run (run failed), 3:19.