NEW PHILADELPHIA — Throughout its stirring playoff run, Eastmoor Academy’s football team — against long odds — somehow found a way to overcome key injuries.
The Warriors’ mojo finally ran out Nov. 23 as a potent, versatile, driven Chagrin Falls Kenston team ran roughshod over Eastmoor 40-7 in a Division III state semifinal at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium.
“You just cannot sustain the injuries we had and survive what we went up against tonight,” Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda said. “Injury after injury just compounded themselves and kept us from being able to do anything defensively tonight.”
Making only their second final four appearance, the Warriors (12-2) were without their top three tacklers — linebacker/strong safety Micah Coleman (ankle), linebacker Tyree Grace-Sawyer (ankle) and linebacker Kylan Birchmore (torn ACL) — and it proved fatal against a Bombers team scoring 41 points per game.
Tailback Mark Porter rushed for 192 yards on 25 carries with a pair of touchdowns and quarterback Jon Tomcufcik — running the read option to perfection — added 108 yards on 11 rushes with three scores for Kenston (13-1), which will face Kettering Alter (13-1) in the title game Nov. 30 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
Kenston piled up 462 yards against an Eastmoor defense that yielded just 42 points in its previous six games. And that came with a running clock in effect the final 14 minutes.
“We saw that they were playing a four-man front and they weren’t going to change no matter what we ran,” Kenston coach Jeff Grubich said. “We knew what to expect and we capitalized on that. We took what they gave us on our zone read.
“They tried to take our tailback away, so our quarterback took off and ran. That’s the diversity we bring to the table.”
Miranda said Kenston’s offensive line pushed around Eastmoor’s defensive front four and forced his second-string linebackers to make plays.
“Their ability up front was made it all happen for them,” Miranda said. “Despite everything that happened, our guys didn’t back down. I’m proud of them. They overcame a lot of adversity just to get this far, but tonight we couldn’t get it done.”
Kenston came out on the opening series and marched 79 yards in nine plays with Porter scoring on a 12-yard run.
Eastmoor didn’t get on the board until the final minute when quarterback Marquise Laster completed two long passes before connecting with Ravon Wheeler for an 8-yard TD.
Aided by excellent ball-handling and misdirection runs by his backs, Tomcufcik ran for TDs of 4, 16 and 42 yards. He came in with 2,652 yards and 24 TDs passing, but didn’t have to throw much against the Warriors. All six Bombers TDs came on the ground.
The Warriors were unable to mount much of a running and Laster was picked off twice.
“We were hoping to mount a passing attack, but Kenston played a lot of two-deep and had help in the secondary,” Miranda.
Grubich was expecting more of a challenge from Eastmoor, which knocked off a series of excellent teams to make it this far.
“When we watched film of Eastmoor, we saw them all spread out all over the field with lots of speedy athletes,” Grubich said. “You beat speed by being physical, and that’s what we tried to achieve. If you’re going to get in a track meet with a team like that, you’re going to get second place.”
Kenston is making is third title game appearance, having lost in 1986 and 1995.
“It’s tough to put into words what we achieved tonight,” Grubich said. “Pride is the one word that comes to mind.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final CHAGRIN FALLS KENSTON 13 13 7 7 40 EASTMOOR ACADEMY 0 0 0 7 7