I had been hearing about the Chardon Hilltoppers 3-0 start to the season, so I chose them for my first story. And what a great choice it was! Those boys sure didn’t let me down. I went there with mixed feelings. I graduated from Madison High School and for us, Chardon was always the team to beat. Now, here I am cheering them on, but there’s no way you can’t!
Before the game even started, you were reminded how humble this school is. The first thing they did was thank their opponents, Eastlake North, for the support they gave on, and since, that tragic day in February. Sitting in those stands as that was said, with the Chardon fans beginning to clap, renewed a feeling that you seem to think is gone nowadays. If your heart wasn’t won over for that then you better go and watch these boys. The Chardon motto is now “One Heartbeat”, and those Hilltoppers definitely showed that Friday night.
I knew it was going to be a great game when running back Alex Muir ran 60 yards for a touchdown shortly after the kickoff. That would only be his first for that quarter. They wasted no time in putting points on the board and it didn’t stop there. Poor Bobby Bukovec was going to have a long night of kicking that ball between the uprights and to the receiving team; for some reason, I really don’t think he minded though. Chardon can absolutely dominate on the running game. They have legs from all over their team. Quarterback T.J. Benenati not only has an arm but he can also run that ball just like any of his running backs. He recorded two touchdowns himself in the first half. It’s great to watch him march his team down the field and finish it with a touchdown.
Now, for the second quarter; that was interesting. Both teams were causing flags to be thrown everywhere. Rangers and Hilltoppers both turned over the ball on downs in the beginning of the quarter. Made you a little nervous that maybe this game was going to get a little sloppy. Due to all of this, Eastlake North was able to score when their quarterback Anton Vrebac threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Ben Josipovic. Hilltoppers answered back with Benenati keeping the ball for a 7 yard run, making the score 35-7 in the first half.
With a great first half in the bag, I couldn’t wait for halftime to be over just to see what else these boys could bring. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed listening to the Marching Bands, including Chardon “shuffling” to Party Rock, but I was ready to see some more football. The Rangers didn’t come across to me as a team who would roll over and quit and they sure didn’t. But they weren’t Chardon’s worse enemy in the second half. Their worse enemy was the little yellow flags that the ref’s like to decorate the field with when you make a mistake. Somehow, that didn’t affect the points from racking up on the scoreboard. Makes you wonder; if they hadn’t received all of those penalties, what could they have really done? The second half points started when the Hilltoppers ran an onside kick return in for a touchdown, but didn’t stop there. They scored 21 more points in the game to bring the final score to 63-7.
Yes, I have talked a lot about the offense; and no, I have not forgotten about the defense. I have seen several high school games, and when I saw the size of Chardon’s defense, I wasn’t sure what they could pull off. They are a small-sized team when you first look at them, but I will never take that into consideration again when I see these boys play. Not only did they stop the Rangers from scoring more than one touchdown, the Hilltoppers also recorded four sacks for a total of 30 plus yards loss. They seemed to know what the play was before the Ranger’s quarterback took the snap. This defensive line is a perfect sister to the Hilltoppers offensive line. Both lines run like a machine: well tuned, solid, and ready to work.
Becoming a Hilltopper Fan
Friday night was a turning point for this Blue Streak. Coach Mitch Hewitt managed to turn me into a Hilltopper fan. It kills me to admit that, but you are all witnesses to this. There is no doubt in my mind why this team is ranked 3rd in the state in Division II play.These boys definitely embrace “One Heartbeat”, and they know how to have fun doing it. Just ask Michael Cardina. He got some of the biggest cheers from his team and the crowd when he caught a ball from the opposing team while just standing on his sidelines.
Next time you are wanting something to do on a Friday night, you need to go check out the Chardon Hilltoppers. I guarantee you will have some wild entertainment. Maybe this week you can go watch them celebrate Homecoming when they take on the Madison Blue Streaks at 7:00 Friday night. As for me, I will be at one of our other great Geauga County schools watching some more hometown football.
“Please give some praise to the Chardon Football Team for their winning streak. There are three angels looking down on them. They deserve it!”
~ Rae Callaghan
Were you at this game? Tell us about your experience that night.
Scores Around Town
West Geauga 40
Canton Central Catholic 7