October 24, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
38°F

Hornets pick up hard-earned victory

Highland quarterback Bruce Kinsey looks to run past Avon Lake defender Turner Keane on a run in the first quarter. (AARON JOSEFCZYK/ GAZETE)

Albert Grindle

The Gazette

NORTH ROYALTON — Nine words from Myles Houska said it all: “Nothing is going to come easy in the playoffs.”

The top-seeded Highland football team had a war on its hands Friday in a Division II, Region 4 quarterfinal at Serpentini Chevrolet Stadium, but used an all-around effort to defeat eighth-seeded Avon Lake 28-21.

The special teams came up with two momentum-swinging plays, the defense had three fourth-down stops and two turnovers and the offense used another heady performance from reigning Gazette MVP Bruce Kinsey to hold off the never-say-die Shoremen (8-3).

Highland’s reward for winning its school-record 15th consecutive game is a second-round date with 23-time state champion Massillon (9-2), which disposed of Nordonia 33-17.

“No team is going to lie down,” two-way lineman Houska said. “Every play, you have to be at your best and be 100 percent ready. We faced adversity like that all year, and I’m just thinking more that we came out on top.”

The Hornets (11-0) saw second-half leads of 21-7 and 28-14 cut to seven, but came up with big plays in big moments. Among them were pressure-packed touchdown throws from Kinsey to Cory Moncol (26 yards on fourth-and-9) and Coltin Kinsey (5 yards with 9 seconds left in the first half), a blocked punt by Houska, a fumble recovery by Jonny Zaz and an interception by Collin Paich.

Running the read-option to near-perfection despite a less-than-average performance through the air (8-for-21 for 80 yards), Bruce Kinsey ran or threw on 47 of Highland’s 66 snaps, while 86 of his 161 rushing yards came on three keepers that set up touchdowns. Running back Alex Harris had 48 of his 61 yards in the second half, scored two touchdowns and recovered the clinching onside kick with 1:42 left.

Meanwhile, the defense was susceptible to the big play — Avon Lake gained 219 of its 327 yards on four snaps — yet survived twice in the red zone when Alex Voloshen pushed a 27-yard field goal wide left and All-Ohio fullback Collin Lucas slipped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-2 from the 19.

Highland held 1,110-yard rusher Wyatt Ohm to 33 yards on 14 carries despite facing an offensive line that featured 275-pound tight end Kyle Kuhar (Ohio recruit) and 280-pound tackle Ben Oxley (Northwestern).

Make no mistake, Highland needed all three phases to escape with a hard-earned victory.

“We just stuck to the game plan,” Moncol said. “We knew what they were going to do the whole time.”

The Hornets were clinging to a 21-14 lead after Shoremen quarterback Jeremiah Campo (118 rushing yards, 125 passing, 3 total TDs) spun off a defender and raced 64 yards to the house midway through the third quarter. It was the first time this season Highland allowed a third-quarter point.

The teams then traded three turnovers in a 1:55 span — an interception by Avon Lake’s Kyle Kuhar, a fumble recovery by Zaz and an interception by Paich — before Avon Lake lined up to punt from its own 43 early in the fourth quarter.

That’s when Moncol seized momentum for good.

The senior received Max Seipel’s boot on his own 16, made a cut and raced down the sideline to the Avon Lake 35. A block in the back pushed the ball back 10 yards, but Bruce Kinsey’s 22-yard keeper set up Harris’ second touchdown with 7:22 left.

“I saw their end close and it made a little bit of a gap, so I bulled through it,” Moncol said. “If I was a second later, I think he would have cracked me pretty good. I hit the hole and I was on the go.

“That gave us the drive. It gave us the field position we needed to finish it.”

Linebackers Grant Wallace (game-high 13 tackles) and Zaz were next in line to come up with a key play, as they stuffed Campo on fourth-and-2 from the Avon Lake 44 with 4:22 left. Highland couldn’t run out the clock, though, and the Shoremen got the ball back with less than 3 minutes to go.

David Winkel (193 yards from scrimmage), the usual starting quarterback who was moved to wideout by coach Larry Laird to utilize his speed, put the crowd on the edge of its seat with a one-handed 80-yard touchdown catch with 1:42 left, but Harris slammed the door when he recovered the onside kick and converted the final first down on a 14-yard gain up the gut — his longest of the night.

“We struggled with the run game because we couldn’t get it to our running back much,” Moncol said. “We threw everything we had at them.”

Highland put itself behind the 8-ball right away when coach Tom Lombardo rolled the dice by going for it on fourth-and-inches from his own 32. The decision backfired, and Campo scored three plays later just 2:48 into the game.

The Hornets tied the score 5 minutes later, but only after Kinsey threw a pinpoint fourth-and-9 fade that Moncol juggled before securing the ball in the end zone. They took the lead for good when Kinsey rumbled 33 yards and Harris capped the 11-play, 80-yard drive with 1:16 left in the half.

Avon Lake was content to run out the clock at that point until Lombardo used his last two timeouts to force a Seipel punt from his own 30 with 17 seconds left. With everyone in attendance knowing what was coming, Houska got ample push and used every inch of his 6-foot-4, 280-pound frame to block the attempt, which Zaz returned to the 5.

Facing a dangerous scenario with no timeouts remaining and 12 ticks on the clock, Kinsey threw another beauty over two defenders to Coltin Kinsey in the back of the end zone to make it 21-7 and, at the time, send momentum swinging solely in Highland’s corner.

“With 17 seconds left in the half and you’re down there, why not go for (a block)?” Houska said. “It’s a huge momentum swing going into halftime getting some extra points on the board. That’s what we were hoping to do, and we executed.”

Highland entered the game a 17-point favorite. It will be the underdog next week against Massillon, whose losses are to undefeated D-I team Austintown Fitch and D-III state title favorite St. Vincent-St. Mary.

The role reversal will be new, but the Hornets will embrace it with open arms.

“We talked all season about getting Massillon in the playoffs, and we got it,” Houska said. “Now we’ve just got to play our game. It’s the playoffs, and anything can happen.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Highland 28, Avon Lake 21

Division II, Region 4 quarterfinals

AVON LAKE                       7   0   7  7 —  21

HIGHLAND                        7  14  0  7 —  28

First

A — Jeremiah Camp 1 run (Alex Voloshen kick), 9:12.

H — Cory Moncol 26 pass from Bruce Kinsey (Luke Allen kick), 4:06.

Second

H — Alex Harris 2 run (Allen kick), 1:16.

H — Coltin Kinsey 5 pass from B. Kinsey (Allen kick), 0:09.

Third

A — Campo 64 run (Voloshen kick), 5:41.

Fourth

H — Harris 5 run (Allen kick), 7:22.

A — David Winkel 80 pass from Campo (Voloshen kick), 1:42.

                                                             A                  H

First downs                                      12                 15

By rush                                                8                 11

By pass                                               3                   4

By penalty                                           1                   0

Rushing                                      37/202         44/229

Rushing average                             5.5                5.2

Passing                                          6/16             8/22

Passing yards                                125                 80

Avg. per attempt                            7.8                3.6

Avg. per completion                    20.8              10.0

Total plays/yards                    53/327         66/309

Avg. gain per play                          6.2                4.7

Punting                                       4/23.8          5/30.2

Time of possession                   20:46            27:14

Penalties                                        5/25             7/65

Fumbles/lost                                  2/1               0/0

Avon Lake

Rushing

Name                              No.    Yds.     Avg.      TD

Campo                               17      118        6.9          2

Winkel                                   4        77      19.3          0

Wyatt Ohm                        14        33        2.4          0

Collin Lucas                         2          4        2.0          0

Receiving

Name                              No.    Yds.     Avg.      TD

Winkel                                   4      116      29.0          1

Jace Russell                         1          6        6.0          0

Max Seipel                           1          3        3.0          0

Passing

Name                            Com      Att      Pct     Yds                                      TD-INT

Campo                                 6        13      .462      125                                     1-1

Winkel                                   0          2      .000          0                                     0-0

Tackles: Al Pivcevich 9, Trevor Anderson 9, Lucas 7, Ben Oxley 7, Kyle Kuhar 5, Campo 4, Turner Keane 3, Sam Klimkowski 3, Winkel 3, Russell 3, Ohm 2, Connor Gerlach 2, Anthony Thielman 2, Danny Disbrow 2, Seipel.

Tackle for loss: Pivcevich 1½, Lucas, Keane, Anderson, Kuhar ½.

Sacks: Pivcevich.

Interceptions: Kuhar.

Missed field goal: Voloshen 27 (WL).

Highland

Rushing

Name                              No.    Yds.     Avg.      TD

B. Kinsey                            26      161        6.2          0

Harris                                 16        61        3.8          2

Nick Corvo                          2          7        3.5          0

Receiving

Name                              No.    Yds.     Avg.      TD

Moncol                                 3        52      17.3          1

C. Kinsey                              4        27        6.8          1

Harris                                   1          1        1.0          0

Passing

Name                            Com      Att      Pct     Yds                                      TD-INT

B. Kinsey                              8        21      .381        80                                     2-1

Moncol                                 0          1      .000          0                                     0-0

Tackles: Grant Wallace 13, C. Kinsey 8, James Friedl 8, Jonny Zaz 6, Nick Haas 4, Myles Houska 4, Corvo 3, Dan McCartney 3, Collin Paich 2, Bobby Goff 2.

Tackles for loss: Wallace, C. Kinsey, Zaz, Corvo, Haas, Friedl.

Sacks: Wallace, Corvo.

Fumble recovery: Zaz.

Interception: Paich.

Blocked punt: Houska.