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Kirtland's bid for second state football championship won't be easy

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What more can be said about the Kirtland Hornets?

They have been on quite a run over the last three years. They come into Friday's state championship game against Haviland Wayne Trace winners of 43 of their last 44 games. The only blemish on that record was a 10-9 loss in last year's state final to Coldwater. It is a real possibility that Kirtland could be gunning for their third straight state championship this weekend.

“There’s not a day anyone on our team doesn’t think about that one point,” said junior running back Adam Hess.

The secret to Kirtland's success? Nothing special, just hard work and old school football

Coach Tiger LaVerde and his Hornets follow a simple formula: Run the ball, then run it some more. It's a style that has led to some mind boggling numbers on both sides of the ball.

  • They have scored 741 points on the year, the second most ever, according to the OHSAA
  • Playing with the lead is commonplace, as Kirtland has outscored its opponenets 264-17 in the first quarter
  • Over 4900 rushing yards
  • Their season LOW in yards in a game is 353

One might think that with stats like that, Kirtland would have rolled in to the state final. Well, the dream ALMOST ended last Friday

For the first time all year, Kirtland's running game was being stymied by Columbus Bishop Ready. Locked in a 7-7 tie late in the fourth quarter, Kirtland had one more drive left in them. Taking over with just over two minutes to play, the Hornets drove down to the Ready five yard line. On the game's final play, sophomore kicker Brad Hauptman kicked the winning field goal as time expired.

To have great successes, a team needs great players, and Kirtland has plenty of them. Five Hornets starters were named first team All-Ohio in Division VI

Sam Kukura.... Kirtland's leading rusher, as he has 1,569 yards on the year and 25 touchdowns

Mike Cymbal.... A three year starter on the offensive line

Matthew Finkler.... Voted Division VI Defensive Player of the Year

Canon Schroeder... Leads the Hornets in tackles for loss

Ryan Loncar.... Mr. Versatilty. Will set a state record by starting his 58th straight game this Friday.

Kirtland will have its hands full Friday with maybe the hottest team in the state in Haviland Wayne Trace

Meet the Raiders.... Wayne Trace is located in Paulding County, just outside of Defiance, and come out of the Green Meadows Conference. After missing the state playoffs last year despite a 9-1 record, the Raiders have taken out their frustrations on their playoff opponents. Through the first four playoff games, the Raiders are averaging 54 points a game. They run a five receiver, empty backfield, spread offense. They are led by quarterback Colby Spiece, who has thrown for an amazing 62 touchdowns on the year, including eight in a win over Ada. His favorite target is Korbin Showalter, who has caught 77 passes for 1,655 yards and 25 touchdowns.

“What a contrast in styles it’s going to be,” said Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde. “They want to go shotgun, five wide every play, and we like to line up in two tight ends and a full-house backfield pretty much every play."

So who wins?.... Wayne Trace won't score 50, but they will score. The bottom line is this game is this question: Can Kirtland control the ball and keep the high powered Raider offense off the field. This will be a shootout, with both teams being able to score. Spiece will put up monster numbers, and Kirtland will put up their usual rushing numbers. In the end, Schroeder and Finkler will make a big play on defense, and the Hornet offense will just do enough

Kirtland 35, Wayne Trace 31

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