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Aurora's razzle dazzle end-of-half play thrills fans in grid win over Kent

by ERIC CLUTTER | CORRESPONDENT Published: September 21, 2016 1:00 AM
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Kent -- After losing their opener to Solon at home, the Greenmen varsity gridders completed a three-game road trip sweep Sept. 16 with a 42-7 Suburban League victory over Kent Roosevelt.

The game lacked the flair of a recent game-ending play between Central Michigan and Oklahoma State.

There was no untimed down, no intentional grounding penalty, no confusion among the officiating crew, and considering the score at the time, far less shock among the home and visiting fans at Roosevelt Stadium.

But what Aurora did in the waning seconds of the first half was simply amazing, successfully executing back-to-back hook-and-lateral plays in the final 12 seconds to take a 28-7 lead at the intermission.

After Kent was stopped on its last drive of the first half and already trailing 21-7, Rough Riders punter Parker Selden booted a kick that was fair-caught at Aurora's 32 with 12 ticks left on the clock.

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Knowing they were slated to receive the opening kickoff of the second half, the Greenmen (3-1, 1-0 American Conference) and head coach Bob Mihalik decided to forgo taking a knee and instead rolled the dice.

On first down, AHS quarterback Mac Austin found one of his receivers on the left side for a 12-yard gain.

BUT BEFORE Kent defenders made the tackle, the ball was lateraled to a trailing Greenman receiver who gained an additional 12 yards to place the ball down at Kent's 44 with 3 seconds still on the clock.

"The first play was a designed play, something we've run at the end of the half several times since I've been here," said Mihalik, now in his 16th season. "And they executed it well."

On the ensuing snap, Austin went back in the pocket and found junior Gavin Blunt for about a 15-yard gain. But Blunt continued to work his way to the near sideline before getting some blockers, who allowed him to cross over the field toward his sideline.

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There, he turned the corner around the 20 and made a dart for the endzone. Inside the 5, he encountered congestion and just before being pulled down, managed to see teammate Ben Stawicki not far behind.

Blunt dished the ball off to the senior, and Stawicki was just barely able to navigate the final 2 yards and cross the goal line.

"The second one, we knew they would be back [in coverage]," noted Mihalik. "We just ran a little screen. It was a great play by Gavin. He couldn't quite get in, so he flipped it to Stawicki, who was ready for it. First one by design; second was great athletes making plays."

The improbable score upped the Aurora lead to 28-7 heading into the break. The Rough Riders, who put up a game fight for the first 23:48, couldn't recover.

"Give credit to Kent. They played really hard, really tough," said Mihalik. "We needed that score at the end of the half. It was 21-7, and that gave us a little momentum going into the second half."

Senior running back Chris Vanzo scored his third rushing touchdown of the night to open the second half to make it 35-7. AHS backup quarterback Evan Fromiller added a 2-yard scoring run later in the frame to close out the scoring.

"OUR KIDS never gave up, and I think that was evident all night long," said Roosevelt head coach Tim King, whose team fell to 0-4 overall and 0-1 in conference play.

"We came out and fought and fought continuously from the first whistle to the last whistle. We got a little messy and made some mistakes here and there.

"We fought, but just didn't execute well enough. I'm really proud of our effort. As we continue to grow and get better week in and week out, we will execute some of those plays and turn the scoreboard around."

Both teams turned the ball over twice in the opening half. Turnovers set up Vanzo's first TD, as well as Nathan Jones' 4-yard run for Kent, which tied the score at 7 in the first quarter.

Austin hit Blunt for a 14-yard score late in the frame to put Aurora ahead 14-7 through 12 minutes, and Vanzo tacked on a short scoring run in the second stanza to make it 21-7.

Blunt finished the game with 5 pass receptions for 134 yards.

Vanzo continues to lead the team in scoring with 10 touchdowns, while Robby Alrecht nailed all 6 of his extra points to push his point total to 19. Austin has completed 38 of 58 passes this year for 560 yards and 4 TDs.

Aurora is No. 8 in the Division II Region 5 computer standings. Above the locals are Bedford, Warren Hardin, Akron Ellet, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Chardon, Hudson and Copley.

AHS returns home for two straight games -- Sept. 23 against Barberton and Sept. 30 against Medina Highland.


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