State title hopes were dashed on a chilly November night for two Akron-area high school teams as the St Vincent St Mary Fighting Irish fell to the Chagrin Falls Tigers 30-12 in the Division III Regional Final at Bedford Bearcat Stadium. Over in Solon, Gerry Rardin's Walsh Jesuit Warriors lost a tough one to the Aurora Greenmen 21-14 in overtime in the Division II Regional Final.
In a game heard on 1590 WAKR and wakr.net, both SVSM and Chagrin Falls stumbled out of the gate early as an early turnover by Irish running back Sae'Von Fitzgerald on a counter play put the Tigers in prime position to score, but they couldn't take advantage as junior quarterback Tommy Iammarino fumbled inside the Irish 20.
Chagrin Falls struck first with a 20-yard field goal from Alex Hallwachs to put the Tigers up 3-0 halfway through the first quarter. The Irish answered right back with a 78-yard Sae'Von Fitzgerald touchdown run to put them up 7-3.
The Irish gave Chagrin Falls plently of opportunities to cash in some points in the first half with good field position, but only came up with a pair of field goals off the foot of Alex Hallwachs to cut the league to 7-6 to close out the first quarter.
The SVSM defense, who came into the game with a lot of acclaim, lived up to their billing by only giving up three field goals as they trailed 9-7 early in the second quarter. The Irish put a solid drive thanks to senior signal-caller Kevin Besser who threw a couple of long passes to Jordan Hargrove and Franshon Bickley to set up the Irish in the red zone until Sae'Von Fitzgerald fumbled, giving the ball back to the Tigers. But that wasn't the worst news for St. V as quarterback Kevin Besser left the game with an apparent knee injury.
The tough Irish defense held tough forcing another Tiger punt, which led to a high snap from Chagrin Falls resulting in a safety and a tie ball game with four and a half minutes left to go in the first half until SVSM kicker Antonio Manfut broke the tie with a field goal to put the Irish up 12-9 heading into the half.
Second half was more of the same for the Irish D as Dan Boarman's group held the Tigers in check forcing a three-and-out to start things off, and the special teams came through by blocking a Chagrin punt thanks to sophomore Aaron Adkins.
With SVSM QB Kevin Besser forced out of the game with a knee injury, it was up to Clayton Uecker and Aaron Bushner to line up under center, which made the Irish one-dimensional, in turn giving the Tigers good field position once again, where Chagrin Falls running back Kurt Vidmer plunged in from one yard out to give his team a 16-12 lead with under three and a half to go in the 3rd.
Three huge plays marked the end of the third with both quarterbacks throwing interceptions, first Clayton Uecker for St. Vincent-St Mary and then Tommy Iammarino tossed one to SVSM linebacker Tyler Bischoff, who returned it to the 27 yard line. The Irish gave it right back as Uecker was looking for Franshon Bickley deep, when it was intercepted by Chagrin Falls defensive back Billy Cale, who fumbled it himself, but one of his Tiger teammates bailed him out.
Chagrin Falls took control with their ball-control offense led by running back Jack Campbell, who put the Tigers on his shoulders with tough, hard running including a short-yardage touchdown plunge. Campbell had over 100 yards in the game and came in averaging nearly seven yards per carry.
Tommy Iammarino added another 1-yard score late in the 4th to put an exclamation point on the victory.
The Irish defense, that played well the majority of the game, got worn out by the grind-it-out offense of the Tigers who move on to the State semifinal with an undefeated record of 13-0. The Irish end the season at 10-3.
Over in the Division II Regional Semifinals at Solon High School, it was a defensive struggle as Walsh Jesuit and Aurora battled it out for the right to go to the State Semis. The Warriors defense showed up as they held Aurora out of the endzone 4 times from the one yard line on a first quarter goalline stand.
Walsh Jesuit capped a 39 yard touchdown drive on a Brock Jones 6 yard run with 1:38 left to go in the 1st half.
Aurora quarterback Blake Calcei scored on a 33 yard 4th down run with 19 seconds left.
Aurora took a 14-7 third quarter lead with a but Gerry Rardin's Walsh Jesuit Warriors answered right back with a score of their own.
The Warriors dominated defensively holding the Greenmen to 38 total yards in the second half.
Walsh missed two field goals and overtime was the end result as a partially blocked kick and an attempt that went wide right did them in.
In overtime, Aurora was bailed out by a pass interference call on the Warriors and got the go-ahead score with a 4 yard Blake Calcei run.
Walsh had the ball fourth and goal from the 4 on their possession, but a pass was intercepted at the goal line by the Greenmen. The Warriors end the season at 10-2, while Aurora moves on to the Division II State Semifinals with a record of 12-1.