KIRTLAND—For the first time since 2005 a team other than Kirtland will reign over the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.
Cuyahoga Heights defeated the Hornets, 21-0, on Friday putting an end to Kirtland’s 51-game league winning streak and snapping the Hornets’ 11-year string of conference titles.
“It's been a long time,” said Cuyahoga Heights coach Al Martin. “We've had so many games where we played against them and felt like we had a chance and they came away with the win. For our kids to play that type of game tonight was just impressive.”
The Redskins last defeated the Hornets on Sept. 24, 2009. Since then, Kirtland had reeled off eight straight wins, including two in the post-season.
Cuyahoga Heights won the game by keeping the ball away from the Hornets.
Kirtland ran just 42 plays, compared to 59 for the Redskins, and managed just 131 yards of total offense and eight first downs.
“We didn't get many possessions,” said Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde. “They did a great job of controlling the ball and we couldn't get off the field. Our defense played a lot of snaps. They whipped us.”
Redskins quarterback Brett Lowther led his team to two first half scores.
He threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Polk in the first quarter and added a three-yard scoring run early in the second to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Kirtland ran just six plays on two series in the first quarter and 12 plays in three series in the second quarter. The Hornets managed just three first downs in the first half.
Kirtland finally found its groove on offense on the opening possession of the third quarter but the Redskins defense slammed the door inside the 10.
The Hornets started at their own 27 and 15 plays later they found themselves staring down a third-and-goal from the Cuyahoga Heights three. Antonio Rini was stopped behind the line of scrimmage and the Redskins batted down a fourth-and-goal pass from the six to keep the Hornets out of the end zone.
“First of all, they put together a great drive,” Martin said. “They converted two fourth-and-threes, so give them a lot of credit, but when they were converting they were getting it by a yard or two. We made them earn it. In the past we've given up a big chunk play somewhere along the line. If you've got to go 12 or 13 or 14 plays sometimes you make a mistake somewhere along the way or somebody makes a good play on the other side of the ball and you don't get in and our kids just hung in there and made a great stop there inside the 10.”
That was Kirtland’s only drive in the third quarter and the Hornets had just two in the fourth quarter.
The shutout was Kirtland’s first since a 48-0 loss to Youngstown Ursuline in the 2010 regional championship game. The Hornets were held scoreless for the first time against a league opponent since Independence’s 13-0 win back on Oct. 21, 2005.
“It was an incredible team effort,” Martin said. “On defense, if you don't have 11 guys giving 100-percent effort every snap there's no chance against them because they make all 11 guys play defense. Offensively, they really get after you but I think our kids competed every snap out there tonight.”
Kirtland dropped to 8-1 on the year and 5-1 in the CVC.
The Hornets close out the regular season at Hawken on Friday and have clinched a spot in the post-season for the seventh straight season.
“These kids are great kids,” LaVerde said. “They work hard and are resilient. They'll be back in (on Saturday) working hard. We've got to get a little better every day and take it one game at a time.”
Cuyahoga Heights improvd to 9-0 overall and 6-0 in league play. The Redskins can win the CVC outright with a win over Independence on Friday. If the Blue Devils win, Cuyahoga Heights, Independence and Kirtland will share the league title.