AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Turnovers in big games can be devastating. But turnovers against a state championship caliber team are deadly.
The Springfield Tigers found out early in their contest with Kirtland how costly those turnovers can be as the Hornets jumped out to an early 21-0 lead and then cruised to a 35-13 victory over the second seeded Tigers at Austintown’s Glenwood Falcon Stadium.
The Tigers would turn the ball over on three of their first four possessions to start the game. The Hornets would capitalize on those miscues to build a 21-0 advantage just seven and a half minutes into the contest, and then add another score following an interception early in the second quarter to lead 28-0 at halftime.
“Obviously the turnovers killed us, and that is something we haven’t done in the past three or four games. But that is what it comes down to. What team is going to make the most mistakes and when you turn the ball over your not even going to give yourself a chance,” Tigers coach Sean Guerriero remarked.
“Turnovers definitely killed us in this game,” Tigers senior lineman Russell Seymour admitted. “I don’t think we have had a game where we turned the ball over (like this). We had some really good drives, but those killed us. The turnovers definitely killed us.”
Kirtland put pressure on the Tigers right from the opening kickoff as they marched 51-yards on just 4 plays with fullback Gaige Ward scoring on a 29-yard run only two minutes into the contest. That gave the Hornets a 6-0 lead as the extra point was blocked by the Tigers.
The Tigers tried to answer on their first possession but a fumble at midfield was returned to the Tigers 23-yard line. Three plays later quarterback Dylan Fulco found Joey Torok on a 25-yard scoring strike to give the Hornets a 14-0 lead with 7:26 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Tigers would once again fumble the ball away on their next possession at their Hornets 48-yard line. The Hornets wasted no time in making the Tigers pay as Torok took the ball around end 52-yards and pushed their advantage to 21-0 with 4:23 left in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of possessions Tigers quarterback Brannon Brungard would have an aerial picked off by Torok and returned 28-yards to the Tigers 21-yard line. From there they would punch it in two plays later as they grabbed a 28-0 lead with 8:21 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers continued to fight on though as they would capitalize on a Kirtland turnover in the second half, scoring on a 2-yard plunge by Frankie Centofanti with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter. That touchdown cut the score to 28-7.
But the Hornets would quickly squash any hopes of a Tigers comeback as they marched 72-yards on 10 plays with Fulco hitting receiver Ryan Lipps on a 9-yard toss with 9:16 left in the game to make it 35-7.
The Tigers would add a 7-yard touchdown pass from Brungard to Jake Ford with 3:05 remaining to make it the final score of 35-13. The Tigers extra point was blocked.
“We had a really slow first half. The second half we came out and we really wanted it, but tonight it just wasn’t there,” Seymour said.
“I’m real proud of all of our seniors, really good leadership. That’s what got us to this point of the year,” Seymour added. “The bond was what really kept the team together, it’s what really held us all together throughout the season.”
“I give all the credit to our seniors,” Guerriero confirmed. “They definitely taught our team how to practice. Taught our team how to be disciplined. And that is something that is hard to come by. This senior group is special, and for us it just helps to build the program on to the next level.”
The Tigers close the season with a 9-3 record, having won the final ITCL Red Tier crown along the way. Next year they will compete in the newly formed Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference.
Read more: View all week twelve game recaps/highlights
Kirtland (11-1) will now face league rival Cuyahoga Heights next Friday night in a regional final.