By Phil Keren
It’s awfully tough to beat a team that does not have a weakness.
That was one of Mogadore head coach Matt Adorni’s observations after his Wildcats lost to Kirtland 42-0 in the Region 21 championship game Friday at Nordonia High School.
“They completely dominated us tonight,” said Adorni. “We knew this was going to be a tall task. They’re every bit as good of a team as we’ve ever played, (on) both sides of the football. (I) didn’t see any weaknesses on film and there weren’t any out here tonight.”
With a ground-focused attack on offense and a swarming defense, the Hornets immediately seized control of the game and never let up.
On its first possession, Kirtland drove 59 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead less than 90 seconds into the contest. That scoring march opened with a 36-yard scamper by senior Will Beers. Four plays later, fellow senior Rocco Alfieri crossed the goal line on a 5-yard toss sweep.
Mogadore’s first offensive possession ended when senior quarterback Zeke Cameron threw a pass behind senior running back Corey Lehner and the ball was picked off by Beers near the sideline on the Wildcats’ 45-yard line.
Kirtland then scored four plays later, with Alfieri hitting paydirt on a 17-yard run, again on a toss sweep, to give the Hornets an early 14-0 lead. That drive was highlighted by a 23-yard run from sophomore quarterback Jake LaVerde, who broke through the middle of the Mogadore defense after faking the handoff to a running back.
On its next possession, Mogadore picked up a first down on a 12-yard run by Cameron, but the Hornets’ defense held Lehner to a 1-yard run, and then sacked Cameron on back-to-back plays.
Noting this is the fifth time that one of his Mogadore team has played Kirtland, Adorni said the Wildcats previously had some success throwing the football, but not this time.
“(Kirtland) is just as good in the back end (on defense) this year,” Adorni said. “They’re just such a complete team. … They’re just so strong in every facet of their game.”
After forcing the Wildcats to punt, Kirtland strung together an eight-play, 69-yard scoring drive that ended with LaVerde threading the needle on a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior Gino Blasini. That was the Hornets’ first throw of the contest and it gave them a 21-0 advantage 6 seconds into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Mogadore continued to struggle to move the ball against a stout Kirtland defense and the Hornets’ offense kept marching down the field with a run-focused attack. Beers scored on runs of 6 and 29 yards, and then hauled in a pass on a crossing route that he turned into a 50-yard touchdown reception. That scoring catch gave Kirtland a 42-0 lead with 2 minutes to go in the first half.
Adorni noted LaVerde hurt Mogadore with his arm and his legs.
“Laverde’s throwing the ball even better this year,” Adorni said. “We were right there on two plays. He’s putting the ball on the money more this year, and he’s a bigger, stronger running threat.”
The two scoring passes were Laverde’s only throws of the contest.
The second half was played with a running clock.
With another season in the books, Adorni tipped his hat to his players for putting together another strong season.
“I’m proud of our kids,” he said. “We’ve had a great year. We lost a lot of guys last year. There weren’t really high expectations, so we’re excited to finish the season with 11 wins.”
Friday was the last game for the 10 seniors on the Wildcats’ roster: Tanner Buso, Layne Miller, Javon Spicer, Zeke Cameron, Devin Graham, Austin Constantine, Corey Lehner, Chad Westfall, Travis Hummel and Bo Lanham.
Adorni said he was “real proud” of this group who played a large role in this team exceeding expectations.
“They stepped up, especially in the back end of our defense and on our flanks,” Adorni said. “We’re real proud of what they accomplished this year … real proud of our total effort. It’s a grind, 14 weeks is long, from the middle of the summer, was proud of them, proud of their efforts all year long.”