Eagles Top Bulldogs in Playoff Opener

The playoff matchup of perennial powers attracted an army of media to Lakewood. The game was broadcast on four different outlets. 

St. Edward opened the OHSAA football playoffs with a win over Canton McKinley on Friday night at First Federal Lakewood Stadium. The Eagles overcame a 14-10 halftime deficit to defeat the Bulldogs 37-21, earning a second-round matchup with Mentor. Senior Tylan Rice and junior Quintel Kent each had a pair of touchdowns in the game for St. Edward.

The Eagles took a 3-0 lead on a 30 yard field goal from senior kicker Blaine Stencil with 7:55 remaining in the first quarter. The Bulldog offense was stymied in the first quarter, facing an aggressive Eagle defense and strong wind coming from the north. St. Edward extended the lead to 10-0 late in the first quarter, scoring on a one yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Garrett Dzuro. The score was set up by a 40 yard Dzuro-to-Kent pass that moved the ball to the Bulldogs one yard line.

Senior kick returner Charles Hall gave the Bulldogs a spark on the ensuing kickoff, returning the ball 31 yards to the St. Edward 40 yard line. The Eagle defense, which was strong all night, held McKinley to a field goal attempt. The attempt missed early in the second quarter, and St. Edward held the 10-0 lead. The Bulldog defense forced a “three and out” on the next Eagle possession, and then McKinley’s offense came to life. They went on an eleven play, 75 yard touchdown drive which was capped by a seven yard run by quarterback Alijah Curtis. Curtis completed three big passes on the drive, one each to Khyree Woody, Keyshawn Watson, and Josh Chandler.

Things were about to get worse for the Eagles. Dzuro fumbled on the next drive, and Bulldog defensive lineman Mica Clemson recovered the ball and ran it 37 yards for a McKinley touchdown. The Bulldog sideline, which was already energized by the Curtis TD, exploded as Sam Snyder hit the extra point to put McKinley up 14-10 with 4:52 remaining in the first half.

McKinley held the lead at halftime, but St. Edward received the second half kickoff and again had the wind to their backs in the third quarter. They quickly took advantage, as Dzuro hit Rice with a 46 yard touchdown pass to retake the lead with nine minutes left in the third quarter. The Eagle defense, led by seniors Omar Fattah and Robbie Mikovsky, held the Bulldogs scoreless on their next two drives. St. Edward countered with a pair of touchdown drives. Rice had a 12 yard TD run with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter; a 16 yard Dzuro to Kent TD pass made it 31-14 less than one minute into the fourth quarter.

The Eagle defense held again on the next drive, forcing a Bulldog punt. Curtis, who is the McKinley punter in addition to quarterback, used the wind and a friendly roll to pin St. Edward back on its own one yard line for the next possession. Bulldog defensive back Xavier Smith then intercepted an Eagle pass and returned it ten yards for a McKinley touchdown. The extra point made the score 31-21 with 8:49 remaining. The Bulldogs had new life, but the Eagle offense responded with a drive that burned the next four minutes of clock. McKinley got the ball with 4:36 to go, but were unable to score again. The Eagles added a late touchdown on a 29 yard Kent reception, making the final score 37-21.

“It’s never easy when it’s one-and-done,” Eagle head coach Tom Lombardo told his team after the game. He was very happy with his defense’s performance, and liked the way his offense responded in the second half. The Eagles (10-1) will face Mentor on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at a site to be determined this week. The Cardinals (10-1) defeated Stow-Monroe falls 49-17 Friday night.

Mike Deneen

Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1 

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Volume 13, Issue 22, Posted 10:05 AM, 11.04.2017