MENTOR — When Mentor’s football team takes the field, lightning will strike.
It’s just a matter of when.
The Cardinals blew open a close game with a late offensive explosion Friday to knock off Brunswick 45-3 in a Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division matchup.
The Blue Devils (4-3, 0-2) got behind 14-0 early on a pair of Conner Krizancic touchdown runs in the first quarter, but settled things down and went toe to toe with the high-powered Cardinals for the next quarter-and-a-half.
“They really jumped on us off the bat,” Brunswick coach Luke Beal said. “They had us on our heels a little bit, but then we kind of caught our breath and recovered. We were able to get some stops there in the second quarter and we were moving the ball a little bit.”
The Blue Devils defense kept Mentor in check the rest of the first half and had a big opportunity when Adam Weber picked off Krizancic (15-for-21, 221 yards; 15 carries, 90 yards; 5 total TDs) and returned it 50 yards to the Mentor 9-yard line.
The interception was the first thrown by Krizancic all season and things were suddenly looking up for Brunswick.
“We had not had to deal with much (adversity) in the last few games,” Krizancic said. “Everyone came up to me and encouraged me to keep slinging the ball around and we came out hot in the second half.”
The Mentor defense stiffened and the Blue Devils had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Kyle Hotz with 18 seconds left in the half.
“If we could have scored (a touchdown) there, things would have been a little bit different,” Beal said. “The defense was still playing well. We felt like we were still in the game, but there were definitely some missed opportunities. There were some fourth-down conversions (0-for-3 in the first half) that seemed like they were there. Offensively, there were times when we needed to make plays and we didn’t.”
Mentor had things rolling on offense after receiving the second-half kickoff, going on a six-play, 63-yard drive before Brunswick’s defense got tough inside the 20 and forced a 34-yard field goal by Mike Muzic.
The Blue Devils dodged another lightning bolt, but they couldn’t for much longer.
Brunswick gambled yet again on fourth-and-5 from the Mentor 27 on the ensuing possession and a nice ball from Steven Ficyk (10-for-22 passing, 65 yards; 13 carries, 31 yards) to Justin Golod was broken up at the last second by Kiyah Powell.
The storm clouds started brewing again, and this time Mentor struck with a trio of bolts.
Over the next three possessions, Krizancic was 5-for-5 for 116 yards and three touchdowns.
In the blink of an eye, it was over.
“We just stuck with the game plan,” Krizancic said. “We tried to get some short stuff, we hit one deep on the first possession of the second half and it started to work.”
Mentor turned a 14-point lead into 38-3 as Krizancic hit Brandon Fritts (5 receptions, 82 yards, 2 TDs) on 58- and 9-yard scoring plays and Corey Plavcan (4, 91, 1) for a 27-yard touchdown. Fritts’ second scoring reception came after Brunswick fumbled the kickoff.
“We really didn’t panic,” Fritts said. “We’re on the sideline and we’re picking each other up. We aren’t panicking. We have a game plan and we’re going to execute it no matter what.”
Brunswick had several chances to stay in the game and the offense picked things up when Richie Norman (15 carries, 67 yards) sparked his team with some tough runs, but the Blue Devils just couldn’t make a play deep in Cardinals territory.
“He just gives you that little extra burst,” Beal said of Norman. “He’s got that little extra pop. It seemed like there were a few times when we almost got him loose. It seemed like we were just one block away.”
The Blue Devils went 0-for-5 on fourth down and had just 198 yards total offense.
Contact Chad Grant at email@example.com.
Mentor 45, Brunswick 3
BRUNSWICK 0 3 0 0 — 3
MENTOR 14 0 10 21 — 45
M — Conner Krizancic 8 run (Mike Muzic kick), 7:20.
M — Krizancic 1 run (Muzic kick), 2:20.
B — Kyle Hotz 27 field goal, 0:18.
M — Muzic 34 field goal, 8:15.
M — Corey Plavcan 58 pass from Krizancic (Muzic kick), 2:52.
M — Brandon Fritts 27 pass from Krizancic (Muzic kick), 11:44.
M — Fritts 9 pass from Krizancic (Muzic kick), 10:29.
M — Matt Eiswerth 4 run (Muzic kick), 2:11.