Chardon Defeats Kenston to Move on to the Final 8

If you weren’t in Mentor at Jerome T. Osborne Sr. Stadium on Friday night, you missed out. Two of our Geauga County schools battled for the chance to move on to the final 8 in Division II playoffs. The Kenston Bombers took on the Chardon Hilltoppers in the second round of Region 5 playoffs. Knowing both teams went into the season with everyone saying they wouldn’t reach postseason play, I was excited about this game of underdogs. Neither team let me down.

Back and Forth in the First Half

I can’t really start out this article with a first quarter recap. The most I can tell you about it is that neither team scored. There was a lot of 4th downs going on. Chardon’s Drew Gittins and Kenston’s Andrew Soltay got a little action on punting. The scoring started shortly into the second quarter. Chardon was the first team to put points on the board with a 3 yard touchdown run by Reilly Hawkins. Bobby Bukovec started out his night with the point after kick going through the uprights, giving the Hilltoppers a 7-0 lead. Kenston’s quarterback Daryll Richards wasn’t going to leave that unanswered. He ran the ball in on a 6 yard keep, giving the Bombers their first touchdown and points of the game. T.J. Kestranek made the point after kick, tying up the score at 7-7. Chardon’s next score was a 31 yard touchdown reception from T.J. Benenati to Andrew Gray. That was one of 2 passes Benenati had for the night. Bukovec made his kick, giving the lead back to Chardon with a score of 14-7. Bukovec wasn’t done yet.

Chardon Hilltoppers vs. Kenston Bombers     Chardon Hilltoppers vs. Kenston Bombers

Some of you might have seen our Facebook updates of the game. We originally posted that the score was 14-7 going into the half. Now is the time for me to explain the score correction. We weren’t the only ones confused in what happened. Kenston’s bench and Chardon’s marching band also thought the half was over. Everyone in the stadium was watching the clock counting down to the end of the half. With one second left in the game, Chardon managed to call a timeout. Almost everyone in the stadium thought that the whistle blown was to signal half time. That was why we posted the 14-7 score update. After the timeout, Chardon set-up for their last attempt at the ball. Benenati passed the ball and it was incomplete. Kenston had a pass interference called on them, giving Chardon another attempt with absolutely no time on the clock. Bukovec stepped up with a 35 yard field goal, giving Chardon the end of the half lead with score of 17-7.

Halftime Show

chardon vs kenston halftime

Our half time entertainment was brought to us by both marching bands. With this being a neutral field, Chardon’s band played to their fans with a “rock” themed show including Kashmere, Immigrant song, and Party Rock complete with the dance. Kenston’s marching band performed a Michael Jackson show. Smooth Criminal, Beat It (which featured the Award Winning Bomberettes), and Thriller got the crowd going. After both schools were off the field, and they played their school’s fight songs, it was time to get back to some football action!

Increasing Their Lead in the Second Half

Second half scoring started off with Chardon putting the points up in lights. Alex Muir scored with a 4 yard touchdown rush and with Bukovec’s point after kick good, Chardon boosted their lead 24-7. Richards was set on answering the score. He was able to when he found a wide open Brian Brezovec for a 73 yard touchdown reception. With that catch, it was the longest play of the game. The Bombers went for the 2 point conversion and were able to complete it. Nick Lombardy ran the ball in, making the score 24-17. Bukovec wanted another chance at scoring before the end of the third quarter. He put up a 25 yard field goal making the score 27-15.

Chardon Hilltoppers vs. Kenston Bombers

The final quarter had some interesting plays happen. The Bombers’ defense held the Hilltoppers to 4 downs forcing them to punt the ball near Kenston’s goal line. Gittin’s tried to get the ball off after a bad connection but only managed to get a 4 yard punt putting the Bombers at their own 27 yard line. On the Bombers’ second down, Joe Connick grabbed an interception from Richards in the Kenston end zone. The Hilltoppers started off the possession at Kenston’s 20 yard line and took advantage of it. Benenati kept the ball for himself with an 11 yard touchdown run. Bukovec put up the final points with the point after kick, making the final score 34-15.

Chardon vs. Kenston Scoreboard

Congratulations to Both Teams

Both teams had some outstanding defensive players. Ryan Snedeker, Chris Tarrance, and Ryan Malik each recorded a sack for Kenston. Malik was a force on stops along with Sean O’Connor on Kenston’s defense. Adam Gray also recorded multiple tackles assisted and alone on defense. Even though they weren’t able to hold Chardon for a win, they sure made them work for it. Chardon’s R.J. Pikus and Travis Ritt got at least one sack in. Jack LeMaster, Pete LeMaster, Anthony Cantanzriti and Reilly Hawkins were just some of the standout defensive players for Chardon. Chardon’s Matt Bolden and Benenati were the leading rushers of their offense. They were able to find holes at the right moments to move the markers and get the first down. I can’t forget about Richards. With 155 yards in rushing, he knew how to move his feet and use his speed. He caused many missed tackles, much confusion, and a lot of work for Chardon’s defense. It may have helped that he was a wide receiver turned quarterback, but the kid can throw when needed also.

I want to congratulate the Kenston Bombers on a great season! They haven’t gone this far in the playoffs in over 15 years. I was able to have the chance to see them play in three games this year and I can tell you they got better with each game. Coach Jeff Grubich worked hard with these boys and gave them the spirit they needed. He knew they could go to postseason this year and made sure his team knew it also. I mean – how many other teams go into the playoffs ranked 8th and beat the first ranked team to advance? Hold your heads high boys; you deserve it!

As for Chardon, congrats on heading to the final 8 and for winning the Fox8’s Friday Night Touchdown Inspiration Award! You went into this season with everyone saying that you wouldn’t get more than 5 wins this year. You proved every critic wrong. You play with a lot of heart and definitely embrace “One Heartbeat”.

This Friday

I am excited to see what the Hilltoppers bring against Aurora on Friday night. I recommend that everyone go see this game. This is another game where Chardon is the underdog, but as we have seen this year, Chardon never gives up and beats the odds. I hope to see you Friday night cheering on the Hilltoppers as they face the Greenmen at Twinsburg Tigers Stadium!

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Trent Ford
Author: Trent Ford

Trent is a graduate of Madison High School and a new resident of Geauga County. He enjoys spending time with his family, history, and the outdoors, but his passion is sports, both local and professional.