Friday night's neighborhood rivalry between Kenston and visiting Chagrin Falls was a game of firsts.
It was the first time the Tigers entered The Battle of Ole 422 as the state's top ranked team in Division III.
It was the first time the Bombers' first-year head coach Jeff Grubich squared off against his alma mater and former head coach.
It was the first time Kenston beat Chagrin Falls in the last five years.
It was first time the Tigers have lost a regular season game since Sept. 16, 2010, when they dropped a 25-14 decision to Aurora before winning 10 straight games and playing in the Division IV state final.
And, it was the first time the Bombers' seniors have ever beaten their counterparts down the road since school football began in seventh grade.
"We've never beat this team in football," said Kenston senior quarterback Darryl Richards following the Bombers' 28-17 win on homecoming. "To finally beat them in a true sport that I love is just phenomenal."
Trailing 17-14 with 2:22 left in the third quarter, Kenston (3-2, 2-0 CVC Chagrin Division) was pinned back at its own 10-yard line. But Richards and senior running back Nick Lombardy took control of the clock and the scoreboard as they orchestrated a 16-play scoring drive capped by Lombardy's 1-yard TD run.
TJ Kestranek's third extra point put Kenston back ahead 21-17 with 9:13 remaining.
"First thing we had to do was establish the run and get out of the hole," Richards, who ran for 96 yards and a touchdown, and added 178 yards through the air, said of the go-ahead drive. "As soon as we get out of the hole, I know our momentum keeps going -- we're fast paced and defenses, they line up slow, so we just have to keep going and keep going."
Lombardy was a workhorse for the Bombers, grinding out 113 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns totaling four yards.
"We just put in the hard work," he said. "This is big because we're going to win the CVC and the program for many years is going to keep winning against Chagrin -- the rivalry."
It was the Bombers defense, however, that sealed the win with a fourth-down stand on the Tigers' ensuing drive.
Starting at its 26-yard line, Chagrin Falls (4-1, 1-1 CVC Chagrin Division) marched downfield on the legs of running back Jack Campbell (23 carries for 123 yards) and the arm of quarterback Tommy Iammarino (11 of 23 for 107 yards). Campbell's five-yard run gave the Tigers a first down at the Kenston 33, but they would manage just nine yards on the next three plays to set up a fourth-and-one situation from the 24-yard line.
Following a Kenston timeout, Kenston senior defensive back Sean O'Connor drilled Campbell in the backfield for a two-yard loss with 4:18 left to play.
"Sean O'Connor came up and made a great play. I mean he stuck that kid," Grubich said. "He's another one of those seniors that's just been working their tails off. So, I'm just thrilled for all those guys."
Richards was not surprised the Bombers' defense came up big against the Tigers.
"Our defense, we've been planning this ever since February; we've planned this so long," he said. "We came in here like, we can't let them run on us because I know their power game is like phenomenal. Our defense is just great; they did an outstanding job."
Kenston followed O'Connor's big stick with a long drive that ended with Lombardy scoring another 1-yard TD with just 31 seconds left in the game.
The Tigers had a chance to get the ball back when Richards was facing fourth-and six from the Chagrin Falls' 21-yard line. But with Tigers defensive end Matt Markley draped to his left ankle, Richards spun around and completed a first-down throw to Justin Abbarno at the Tigers' 5.
"He's a special young man that just works his butt off. He's playing quarterback for the first time and it's a difficult situation for him, but he works his butt off, he wants to learn, he's asking questions all the time, and the skies the limit for the young man," Grubich said. "I think he truly can keep developing and he's done that from week to week."
After giving up an opening scoring drive for the third straight week, Chagrin Falls settled down and outscored Kenston 17-7 over the next 35 minutes. Joey Casarona's fumble recovery at the Bombers' 34 set up Campbell's 23-yard TD run.
The Bombers regained the lead on Richards' 3-yard TD run, but Ed Shelley answered with a 22-yard field goal to cut lead to 14-10 at the half.
Chagrin Falls took the lead after Lukas Sontich's interception set up an Iammarino touchdown run from 3 yards out.
"Our offense did a very good job; we moved the ball up and down the field," said Tigers head coach Mark Iammarino. "Defensively, we chased some really good athletes and did the best that we could, and this was a good high school football game. It came down to a big play -- fourth and one. We got to get a yard, we didn't, they stopped us and that's where the momentum turned and they won the game."
He added, "This group right here does not have the experience of losing a regular season game. And I'm not saying that as boastful, I'm saying that strictly as a matter of experience, and so it stings and I said I'm glad it stings because when you have won a lot of games, you're going to get everyone's best shot every Friday night.
"And Kenston, hats off to them, they played a great game. They had a good game plan and that happens sometimes -- you're on the low side of the score."