Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Cuyahoga Heights slams door on Kirtland’s state run

SOLON—For the first time since 2010, Kirtland won’t play for a state title.

The Hornets suffered a 17-0 defeat to Chagrin Valley Conference rival Cuyahoga Heights in Friday’s Division VI, Region 21 champion game at Stewart Field.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” said Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde, who has guided the Hornets to three state championships and five straight title game appearances. “They know that. There’s 108 teams in our division and we made it to the last eight. We always practice and prepare to be the best team out of the 108 in our division and this year we came up a little short.”

Kirtland closed out the 2016 season with an 11-2 record.

The Hornets lost two games in a season for the first time since finishing 7-3 in 2009.

“People don't realize how hard it is,” LaVerde said. “Every year we've made it back to the state championship there's been hurdles along the way and we've been able to win some close games and tonight we didn't. We had a chance. We were in the game. It was a fantastic game, a hard hitting game, a great high school game; we just didn't muster enough points.”

Kirtland had a chance to break a scoreless tie late in the first half but the Hornets stalled at the Cuyahoga Heights 34 then downed a punt at the Redskins’ 12 with 2:32 left in the half.

Quarterback Brett Lowther engineered a 11-play, 88-yard scoring drive to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead at the break.

Lowther completed 5 of 10 passes for 75 yards and ran for 13 on the drive. He capped the drive with a 22-yard strike to Dylan Drummond.

Another Kirtland drive stalled in Redskins territory midway through the third quarter and the Hornets punted the ball to the Cuyahoga Heights 11.

Lowther wasted no time giving the Redskins a two score lead when he hit Drummond on an 89-yard scoring play on the first play after the punt.

“That 90-yard play was a back breaker,” LaVerde said. “That Drummond kid is a good player. He's a game-breaker.”

Lowther finished the game 11 of 22 passing for 209 yards and two scores. Drummond caught eight of those passes for 174 yards and had both touchdowns.

Mark Shafer added a 27-yard field goal with 2:53 left in the game to close out the scoring for the Redskins, who improved to 13-0 and advanced to the state semifinals for just the second time in school history. The Redskins last made the Final Four in 1998.

Kirtland managed just 134 yards of offense in the shutout loss. Cuyahoga Heights also held Kirtland scoreless in a 21-0 win back in Week 9 of the regular season.

“Eight quarters against those guys and we didn't get a point,” LaVerde said. “Obviously that's a great defense. We didn't execute like we wanted to. We would have some success and we didn't sustain it. They do enough defensively, they take away this. We'll hit a play here and then they'll take it away. It's a guessing game. They're a well-coached team and they've been for 15 years. Every time we play them it's a total battle.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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