It all starts up front.
Win the battle on the line of scrimmage, then get the ball into the hands of speedy playmakers and make stops on defense, and you have the formula for success.
Kenston had all that and more going for it on Friday night in a Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin opener at Wickliffe. Dominating physically on both sides of the ball, the Bombers rode a 15-carry, 206-yard, six-touchdown performance by senior halfback Nick Lombardy to a 63-30 victory.
The Division IV Blue Devils kept things interesting for a half, going into the break down, 35-23, but ultimately wore down and could not stay with the Division II Bombers.
When Kenston had the ball, the Bombers attacked with a quickness and ferocity that had the Wickliffe defense on its heels. Rolling up 432 yards, including 337 on the ground, Kenston scored on drives of three, four, four, three, three, four, two and one plays, and returned a kickoff for a touchdown to boot.
"Obviously, we were able to run it (well) tonight," said Kenston first-year coach Jeff Grubich. "We had a couple series where we didn't move the ball, and kind of took plays off. That's on our O-line up front. We go as they go. If we don't win in the trenches, we're not going to win any games. Overall, in general, they did a good job (tonight)."
Taking advantage of the offensive line's success was the quick Lombardy, who often took a handoff and saw nothing but green grass in front of him. The times that he didn't, he used his quickness to run by defenders.
"I gotta thank the linemen for opening up those holes," Lombardy said. "I just ran hard, and it was easy."
Wickliffe scored on the second play of the game as senior QB Joe Vuraich, executing a nice fake on an option, went 73 yards down the sideline to give the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead. Kenston responded quickly, with two Lombardy touchdown runs sandwiched around a 15-yard TD pass from Darryl Richards to Joe Tomcufcik to race ahead 21-7.
The Blue Devils caught a break when sophomore linebacker Thomas Klein picked off a Richards pass and returned it to the Kenston 8 to start the second quarter. Wickliffe capitalized on a 3-yard run by sophomore fullback Tiontay Phillips (23 carries, 72 yards, three TDs) to make it 21-14. Lombardy scored from 14 yards out, and then Phillips had a 20-yard TD jaunt to make it a 28-20 game. Wickliffe junior Sam Conway nailed a 34-yard field goal to draw the Blue Devils within 28-23, but a 9-yard Lombardy run with nine seconds left before the half made it 35-23, giving Kenston some breathing room.
Kenston (2-2) assumed control of the game in the third quarter, scoring 27 points on two more Lombardy runs, a 58-yard scamper by sophomore Jeremy Wyers, and a 51-yard kickoff return by senior Justin Abbarno.
Phillips scored once more early in the fourth quarter for Wickliffe, on a 3-yard run, to round out the scoring. Wickliffe (2-2) finished with 307 total yards, 237 rushing. The Blue Devils, who have lost two-way senior starters Justin Powall and Domenic Galioto for the season to injuries, battled all evening but couldn't overcome the numbers game.
"I'm proud of our kids, in the first half I thought we battled," Wickliffe coach Marce Porcello said. "I'm proud of our effort. They (Kenston) have nobody going both ways. We have seven guys going both ways. We just got worn down. Our defense has gotten better from Week 1, until tonight, obviously. We'll get better."
Wickliffe will look to rebound next week at Harvey. For Kenston, the win evens its record and sets up a showdown next Friday against neighborhood rival Chagrin Falls.
"Every game's a big game for us," Grubich said. "I told these guys we're in playoff mode from week one."