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Tigers start fast, head back to finals
Tigers start fast, head back to finals
By TONY LANGE
Thirty football games in two seasons is a feat that not many teams achieve.
Chagrin Falls is one of five high school football programs in Ohio that will be making a back-to-back repeat visit to the state finals this weekend.
"You never want it to end," said senior quarterback Tim Porter. "It's awesome."
The Tigers (13-1), advanced last Friday after manhandling the Orrville Red Riders 21-3 in the Division IV semifinals match at Kenneth Dukes Stadium in Medina.
Chagrin Falls will play Columbus Bishop Hartley (12-2) at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium for the state championship at 11 a.m. Friday.
During their victory over Orrville (10-4), the Tigers' offense erupted early, but their defense surged all game long.
To open the game, Chagrin Falls marched 68 yards downfield on a 13-play drive that included four third-down conversions. At the 7:07 mark, senior Jack Hinman carried the ball three yards into the end zone, and Ricky Vannelli's extra-point kick gave the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.
An unusual feature of Chagrin Falls' kicking game is that they utilize three guys. Vannelli kicks extra point and field goals, while Hinman boots the punts and freshman Ed Shelley tees the kickoffs.
Hinman said he knew his team had to start the game like every other week. "After that first touchdown, I knew we had a chance to make it back. I was really excited about it," he said.
In the Riders' opening possession, senior free safety Nathan Lelonis intercepted a pass on Orrville's very first play. It was Lelonis' fourth pick of the season.
From the Orrville 23, the Tigers carried the ball five times, scoring on sophomore Jack Campbell's three-yard run to go up 14-0. Campbell had 63 yards on 16 carries for the night.
Orrville recorded the majority of its total yardage during one possession. That came in the second quarter, when the Riders had a 62-yard drive sparked from two long carries, a 22-yarder and a 39-yarder.
On the 22-yarder, two Rider offenders delivered a knock-out hit to the Tigers' third-year starting lineman Austin Garofolo. He went down for a minute and then hobbled off the field.
Seizing the opportunity, the Riders picked up their 39-yarder and then a four-yarder to make it second and six on the 10-yard line.
Garofolo stepped back on the field.
He broke through the line of scrimmage and stuffed the Rider running back for a loss of three. Orrville then had to settle for a 30-yard field goal, which proved to be its only score of the game.
The big hit angered Garofolo, he said. "They high-lowed me," he said. "At that point, I had to get the TFL when I got back in there."
On the first play of the next Rider possession, Garofolo broke though again and sacked the quarterback for a loss of eight. It was his seventh sack of the season, and Orrville went three and out.
Chagrin Falls took over from its own 31-yard line, and, on the fifth play of the drive, sophomore running back Bradley Munday took a direct snap and ran 52 yards into the end zone to put the Tigers up, 21-3. Munday rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries and caught two passes for 34 yards in the game.
Chagrin Falls had strayed away from the direct snaps the previous week, Munday said.
"We knew we had to mix it up," he said. "We just took it to them tonight. We just had to start off strong, and we did."
In the second half, the Tigers' offense wasn't so productive. They started all seven possessions from within Orrville's 40-yard line but were unable to score. They were unsuccessful on all six of their fourth-down conversion attempts.
Senior center Alex Forbes said leadership, confidence and experience gave the Tigers the advantage.
"We have to be able to convert in the second half though," he said. "It's amazing we didn't give up the game by not scoring. Our defense ran the show."
With stellar defense and clock management, however, it did not matter.
Defensive lineman Tom Weston recovered a fumble on Orville's first play of the second half. "It's all instinct. You just see a ball, you go for it," he said.
Strong safety Everett Dishong then had two interceptions, and Billy Cale added another.
The Tigers' defense as a whole held Orville quarterback Kyle Lichti to zero completed passes during his first 16 attempts. The sophomore didn't complete a throw until within the two-minute mark during the Riders' final possession of the game.
During Lichti's previous 13 games, he completed 49 percent of his passes for 1,997 yards.
The Tigers dominated the game clock with the ball in their possession for 32 minutes, while Orville only had possession for 16 minutes.
The Tigers won, because they played aggressive and like they were the better team, Weston said. "We were the better team, because we are the better team," he said. "The reason why we're good is because we're so close -- like a band of brothers."
Senior lineman Dan Driscoll said the Tigers won, because the defense played as if it was zero-zero the entire game. "We had to keep the pedal to the metal and our foot on the gas all the way to Massillon," he said.
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