Aurora gridders dominate second half; running game keys win

by MICHAEL LEONARD | SPORTS EDITOR Published:

Twinsburg-- For one half, the annual football season opener between Aurora and Twinsburg was every bit the battle it has been over the last decade. The two neighbors went to the locker room tied at 13.

However in the second half, Aurora's trademark ground-and-pound offense paved the way to victory. AHS outscored the Tigers 21-0 to depart Tiger stadium a 34-13 winner.

Greenmen coach Bob Mihalik said he knew the two sides would go hard at each other. "The first half was a great battle," he said. "I told our guys the win came down to the work we did in the offseason. I think we wore them down a little in the second half."

Though Tiger coach Joe Schiavone said Aurora executed better in the second half, he was not disappointed in his team's energy.

"Absolutely. I'm 100 percent happy with our team's effort," he said. "One of the easiest things to do in a game like this is cave, and I did not see any of that. Our guys did not give up at all."

The first half was classic case of the Tigers' big-play ability vs. Aurora's ground-based offense.

Twinsburg's opening drive saw a good mix of passes and runs, culminating with quarterback Randy Tucker hitting slot man Darius Jones for a 36-yard touchdown strike.

It took a while for AHS to find its footing on offense, but it did early in the second period. Quarterback Alex Smierciak made several nice runs, ending with a 3-yard touchdown plunge with 10:47 left.

"Alex managed the game pretty well tonight," Mihalik said. "He had happy feet a couple of times early and missed some wide open receivers. We got his legs working, and that calmed him down."

HOWEVER, Twinsburg answered the Greenmen with another passing touchdown. On fourth down, Tucker found running back Noah Edwards open in the corner of the endzone. Aurora blocked the extra point, but Twinsburg took a 13-7 lead with 8:26 left in the half.

Twinsburg finished only 2 of 11 on third down conversions, but was 3 of 5 on fourth down coversions.

Aurora answered with a long, time-consuming drive, which has been a trademark of the Greenmen in recent years.

The 13-play, 70-yard drive took seven minutes and ended with Smierciak running in his second 3-yard touchdown. The extra point was wide left, and the teams went to halftime tied.

After an exchange of punts early in the second half, Aurora owned the third quarter. First, running back Austin Piunno ran in a 17-yard touchdown on his first carry of the evening with 6:22 left in the quarter. Then Ryan Devine plunged in from a yard out with 23 seconds left.

Aurora's running attack was as varied as it was dominant. Seven Greenmen runners combined to compile 258 yards on the ground. Ben Nelson led with 12 carries for 82 yards.

"We've got a lot of guys who play defense, so we're going to have a lot of guys running it this year," Mihalik said.

True to form, Twins-burg didn't give up, answering with a 17-play drive that got them deep into the red zone. However, on fourth-and-goal from the 17, Tucker's pass went through the hands of his intended receiver in the endzone, turning the ball.

In his first start, Tucker went 10 of 23 for 186 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Deyote Groce was Twinsburg's top rusher, finishing with nine carries for 49 yards.

After stopping the Tigers in the red zone, Aurora put the game out of reach with another long drive -- a seven-play, 83-yard march ending with a 17-yard touchdown run by senior Ryan Settecase.

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