Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Hornets topple Vikings on sloppy field

EUCLID — Mother Nature slowed, but couldn’t stop Kirtland, the defending Division VI state champions, in a 36-14 win over Villa Angela-St. Joseph on Saturday night at Sparky DiBiaiso Stadium.

Lightning forced what would have been a 7 p.m. start back an hour and half and the rain that accompanied it made the grass field quite soggy and somewhat treacherous.

“It was pretty sloppy,” said Kirtland sophomore running back Joey Torok, who ran for 76 yards and two scores.

After both teams traded back-to-back punts to open the game, the Hornets found their footing.

“We take pride in playing in the mud, rain and snow,” Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde said. “Late in the playoffs, when we get bad weather, we want our kids to enjoy bad weather because in November you are going to get some.”

Added Torok: “We love playing in the mud. It’s fun.”

Kirtland junior quarterback Dylan Fulco opened the scoring, powering into the end zone from two yards out. The score came as a result of a self-inflicted fumble by VASJ junior quarterback Aubrey Shabazz.

Shabazz mishandled another snap on the ensuing possession and yet again the Hornets made the Vikings pay.

Fulco found senior running back Owen Loncar for an 8-yard score that staked Kirtland to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

“We took advantage of their two turnovers,” LaVerde said. “We got short fields and took advantage.”

Fulco showed off his arm with a 49-yard bomb that found Torok wide open down the middle of the field.

Torok took it in himself from four yards out to blow the game open at 28-0 late in the second quarter.

Torok’s second touchdown gave the Hornets a 36-6 lead late in the third quarter.

“He had a big role for us on offense,” LaVerde said. “For a little guy he does a lot of good things for us.”

Fulco finished 4-for-5 through the air for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He added 37 yards on the ground and a touchdown.

“He had a couple good runs and he did a real nice job in the passing game as well,” LaVerde said. “I thought he did a very nice job with a wet ball, not turning it over.”

The Hornets defense surrendered just 14 points and the final eight were against the Kirtland second stringers. At the end of the three quarters — at the same time the starters exited the game for Kirtland — the Hornets were out gaining the Vikings 313 yards to 127.

“I thought (the defense) did great,” LaVerde said. “It was just their third game, but they were quick. They got to the ball and they were in the backfield a lot.”

Kirtland travels to Richmond Heights on Friday.

Video Interview: Joey Torok


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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