CHARDON, Ohio — Trailing entering the fourth quarter, Chardon made key plays down the stretch to claim a 17-16 victory over the No. 4-ranked Kenston Bombers at Chardon Memorial Field Friday night.
The game was decided on a 22-yard field goal by Chardon senior Keaton Ziegenfuss with just four seconds remaining.
“We knew it was going to be a close one,” Ziegenfuss said. “We knew it was going to come down to the last drive.”
With the victory, Chardon — ranked 25th in the cleveland.com poll — keeps its playoff hopes alive. The Hilltoppers entered 12th in the OHSAA computer ratings for Division III, Region 9. Kenston, the defending state champion in Division III, remains well in the playoff picture.
“We’ve been down a lot this year unfortunately,” Chardon coach Mitch Hewitt said. “But the blessing of being down and being in close games is that you’re prepared for these situations more so than some teams. Our kids never doubted themselves, so it says a lot.”
Near the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 14. Bombers senior Jon Tomcufcik punted the ball and pinned Chardon on its own 1. The Bombers forced a safety to take a 16-14 lead.
Near the end of the game, Kenston reached the red zone, only to be denied on an incomplete Tomcufcik pass on fourth down.
The Hilltoppers got the ball back with 3:26 left and moved the ball downfield, using a run game that had been successful throughout the night. Chardon’s two touchdowns came on the ground, courtesy of senior D.J. Bowman and junior James Pettyjohn. The Hilltoppers finished with 311 rushing yards.
Once Chardon got into field goal range, Kenston called two timeouts before Ziegenfuss made the game-winning kick.
Last season, the Hilltoppers were the only team to defeat the Bombers, who came into the game as the top team in the state for Division III. But with their solid defense, Chardon held Kenston to a season-low for points.
According to joeeitel.com, the Bombers haven’t scored fewer than 20 points since the 2017 season, when they lost to Mayfield, 38-12.
“Coach (Brian) Landies and his staff does a phenomenal job preparing these kids,” Hewitt said of his team’s defense. “It’s extra hours, it’s extra things that we do, but we spend a lot of time preparing for a talented team like that.”
Kenston scored its lone two touchdowns in the first quarter, as Tomcufcik threw two passes to senior Tyler Mintz. The Bombers finished the game with 184 passing yards, but they were held to 85 rushing yards.
“We just didn’t convert on a few things,” Kenston coach Jeff Grubich said of the team’s offense. “We gotta take a look at the film and get these guys coached up, and at the end of the day that’s on me.”
The Hilltoppers (5-2, 3-1 Western Reserve Conference) will play the Willoughby South Rebels on the road Oct. 18. The Bombers (6-1, 3-1 WRC) host Madison the same night.