Aurora -- In what could be the second-to-last meeting between Chagrin Valley Conference rivals Aurora and Chagrin Falls, fans at Veterans Stadium on Sept. 20 got exactly what they have come to expect from the two programs.
The Greenmen and the Tigers battled all night in a defensive, edge-of-your-seat, down-to-the-final-snap football game, and the locals made two huge plays in the final seconds to secure the 14-13 win in the opening week of CVC play.
Aurora was forced to punt with 1:36 left in the game while holding onto the one-point lead. Chagrin (now 2-2 overall) took over at its 42-yard line with no timeouts left.
Facing a third-and-5, Chagrin quarterback Ed Shelley dropped back to pass but was sacked by Aurora's Justin Wazbinski. On fourth down, as the Tigers hurried to the line, Shelley was again sacked; this time by Brandon Zamary.
"We were getting pressure on [Shelley] all night, but he is a fast quarterback," said Wasbinski. "We finally got to him at a key point and made the plays."
Aurora head coach Bob Mihalik said the defense won the game. "It was two physical, well-coached football teams that refused to lose," said Mihalik. "It was a defensively dominated game, and our defense made the key play when it mattered most."
Aurora held the Tigers to 206 total yards. However, it wasn't like the Greenmen were an offensive powerhouse as they accounted for only 217 yards.
Talking to his players after the game, Mihalik delivered a rousing message: "It's our home field, it wasn't pretty, especially offensively, but we did what Aurora football does and found a way to win. This game goes to our defense. They won it for us."
It was especially sweet for the Greenmen since they had lost two straight to Chagrin, with only one scheduled meeting between the two strong football programs set for the foreseeable future.
"I HAVE ALL the respect in the world for the Chagrin program," said Mihalik. "They always are well-coached and have a great game plan. But it's a shame that we are getting kicked out of the CVC and we, and the fans won't have this kind of game anymore."
For Wasbinski, it was a win that was three years in the making. "We've waited a long time for this," he said. "I'll be sleeping with a smile on my face tonight."
It was not a well-played game by either team.
At halftime, the skies opened up and a strong downpour began, ironically summing up a sloppy first half of football that saw penalties lead to three of the four first-half scores.
AHS got the scoring started with the first of quarterback George Bollas' two touchdown passes -- a 23-yard strike to Kirk Janoch. The scoring play was set up by a hustle play by Joe Dinardo.
On third-and-9, Bollas threw a screen pass to Mitch Lackey, but was stripped of the ball. Dinardo recovered, and on fourth down Janoch ran for a first down.
Two plays later, Chagrin was called for defensive holding. On the next play Bollas found Janoch for a 7-0 Greenmen lead. Bollas finished just 4 of 15 passing for 71 yards.
Janoch was the team's leading rusher with 78 yards on 16 carries along with his one reception that resulted in the score. Bollas added 60 yards on the ground.
Chagrin tied the game at 7 on the next drive when Shelley threw a 22-yard TD pass to Michael Munday.
Then penalties took over. After the teams exchanged quick three-and-outs, AHS was forced to punt again from its 22-yard line.
The snap was not a good one, and AHS punter Joey Melchiori took a little extra time to get the kick away. When he finally did, he was tackled by a Chagrin player, resulting in a roughing the kicker penalty and a Greenmen first down.
BOLLAS AND the offense took advantage of the extra opportunity even though there was only 1:58 left in the half. Bollas finally found some running room, gaining 27 and 12 yards to set up a first-and-10 at the Tigers' 20.
Bollas then threw his second touchdown pass of the game with a strike to Dinardo for 14-7 lead with 1:16 to play in the first half.
On the Tigers' next possession, it was the Greenmen's turn to help out their opponent with a penalty. Chagrin, out of timeouts, was looking to spike the ball in order to stop the clock on a third-and-1 at the Aurora 35-yard line.
Instead of spiking the ball, Shelley took a knee and an Aurora defender dove across the line and hit Shelley. The referees called a 15-yard penalty and stopped the clocked, allowing the Tigers to attempt a field goal.
Shelley converted the 37-yard try to send the game into halftime with Aurora up 14-10. But penalties continued to play a role in the second half.
Chagrin took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched all the way to Aurora's 5-yard line. When it looked like Aurora's defense couldn't stop the Tigers, they stopped themselves. On a third-and-2 from the 5, Chagrin was called for a false start.
Shelley's third-down pass fell incomplete and they settled or a 27-yard field goal by Shelly.
Clinging to the 14-13 lead, Aurora's defense finally made the big play it was close to making all game, when Shelley was hammered by Aurora linebacker Mike Stratton, lost the ball and it was recovered by Lackey.
It was a big stop by the defense, but the Tigers' defense responded with a big stop of its own. Aurora drove to the 10-yard line, but no further. Chagrin forced a Bollas incomplete pass on fourth-and-3, giving the ball back to Chagrin with 7:18 to play in the game.
Both teams exchanged punts until Aurora made the game-winning sacks.
Aurora will travel to Orange (3-1 overall, 0-1 in the CVC) on Sept. 27.