Strong second half propels Kirtland over Riverside 28-7
BY JUSTIN LADA
H.S. SPORTS EDITOR
The Riverside Beavers ran 64 plays compared to the Kirtland Hornets' 50 plays and most of that came from Riverside running more plays in the first half and trailing only 8-0 to Kirtland.
Even though his defense was on the field for a lot of snaps in the first half, Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde was actually pleased with that development as his Tigers went onto a 28-7 victory.
Kirtland drove 60 yards capped off by a six yard touchdown run by quarterback Liam Powers and a two point conversion from Luke Gardner.
Riverside's defense held strong save for that one long drive and gave its offense a chance to get on the board before half and getting the ball back. Matt Spoffard intercepted a pass with six minutes left in the half and the Beavers drove to the Hornets 34 yard line only to have a fumble caused by Kirtland's Mike Rus and recovered by Jaymes Torok. The Hornets didn't capitalize and the Beavers had another chance with quarterback Dom Lulow completing a pass on 4th-and-7 to Spoffard to get down to the Hornets' 16.
Kirtland's defense held the drive off at the end of the first half to keep it at 8-0/
"They did a nice job early and made it hard on us," LaVerde said. "I told the guys at half this was fantastic. You work hard all these months to play four quarters. It was a great game to grind it out and not everything is working right. When you get tough games, you're going to have to battle. That's what happened tonight and we found a way to win."
On 4th-and-16 from their own 25, Riverside attempted a punt but a whistle from the referee to start the play clock back up caught them off guard, causing some confusion and Kirtland forced the punt to turn into a fourth down play that wasn't converted. Riverside made Kirtland earn it with good field position on seven plays, but Powers punched another touchdown in with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter to go up 14-0.
The Beavers did respond quickly, however. Cayman Locher broke off a 33 yard run and Lulow completed five passes before Locher ran it in from three yards out to cut it to 14-7.
After having to grind out drives with small runs all night, Kirtland finally broke loose on the next drive to pull away. Powers went 44 yards on the first play of the next drive and Mason Sullivan hit paydirt on the ground from 56 yards out to make it 21-7.
"When they went down scored to make it 14-7, our kids, you could tell they were beat up and tired," LaVerde said. "We needed one and Mason and the line went out and popped one. Jamy Torok had a great block there. We needed that. At that point of the game the crowd was into it. We had a lot of snaps on defense. That was a big play to go up two scores. They made that mistake in their punting game and we capitalized."
Sullivan scored another touchdown, this time on 4th-and-1 from the 12 to pull away.
"They had some long drives," LaVerde said. "I bet through three quarters they ran more plays. At the end, we started to grind it out. Coach Bors is a great coach and they do a great job playing hard. This is going to help us down the road. Next week is another battle against Geneva and strap it up and do it again."
Despite the loss and falling to 0-2, Riverside didn't walk away without any benefits from playing Kirtland and playing them tough from the first kickoff.
"A lot of stuff to clean up from protections to decision making," Riverside coach Dave Bors said. "Just substitutions and all that. There's a reason we scheduled this game. Even though both teams lost a lot from last year's squads, just the the pedigree they have. Even towards the end looking at running the clock down, even though mathematically we're probably out of it. We wanted to get our kids work, pass protect one more play or two. Everything we still need to get work and get on film. It's not fun now, but it's a program mentality and we've got them again next year. That's why we scheduled the series."
Sullivan finished with 177 yards on the ground and two big scores that allowed Kirtland to pull away and do what they do best, chew clock and regain ball control.
"I couldn't do anything without my offensive line," Sullivan said. "They opened gaps for me and wore them down. Then I was able to break a couple."
Kirtland (2-0) faces Geneva in Week 3 while Riverside hosts Lima..
POSTED 09/07/2019 00:55