Bombers Start Early to Cage Lions
September 9, 2021 by Rich Kelly

Area football fans are well aware that the Kenston Bombers won a state title in 2018. They also know that the Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Lions have a football history of success that goes back decades.

Game photos click here.

Area football fans are well aware that the Kenston Bombers won a state title in 2018. They also know that the Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Lions have a football history of success that goes back decades.

That said, with current events having a huge effect on football landscapes, and with the Bombers having had the most recent success, the two teams have not had the opportunity to play each other.

That changed this season, and the Bombers, with high expectations under coach Jeff Grubich, traveled to NDCL Sept. 3 and bombed away early to take a lead they maintained before finishing with a 35-23 victory in non-conference action.

NDCL’s Gianni Spetic drilled the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. Three straight pass completions took the ball from the Kenston 20 to the NDCL 28 in a hurry. After the first running play lost a yard, Nikko Georgiou hit Sean Patrick over the middle for an apparent touchdown. The first of many yellow flags negated that score, though, setting the ball back to the 32 yard line.

Georgiou, though, does things with his legs as well as his arm for Kenston, and as he dropped back to pass again, one could almost see Moses parting the Red Sea ahead of him. He took the ball down and went 32 yards for the score, and it looked like a much-anticipated contest might not be so close as planned.

After an exchange of turnovers, a Spetic punt put Kenston deep in its own territory. In less than two minutes, the Bombers drove 84 yards, aided by a pair of penalties on overly aggressive Lion defenders, and Georgiou took the ball the last two yards for the score. There was still 4:12 left to play in the first period.

The Lions do not like being pushed around, and their defense stiffened considerably thereafter. Finally, with 5:42 left before halftime, they recovered a second Bomber fumble at the Kenston 16 yard line, with Matt Urda separating the ball from runner and falling on it.

Aided by a personal foul penalty on Kenston that put the ball at the 2 yard line, with emotions running very high both ways, Jacob Koenig — who spent most of the night running for his life from a Kenston defense that specializes in swarming any direction the ball moves — bulled his way into the end zone to get the Lions on the scoreboard with 2:13 left before halftime.

Taking over on downs just under a minute later, Koenig hit on a trio of pass plays to get the ball to the Kenston 16, and Spetic ended the first half with a 32-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 14-10 at the half and giving NDCL fans much-needed relief.

“We played an OK first half,” Grubich said of his team. “NDCL started putting everybody into the box, though, so we tried to establish our ground game more. Then we came out in the second half and tried to just increase our defensive pressure more, and it paid off.

“Our guys have been taking to coaching a lot. They’re looking to constantly improve and get better, and we also try to wear teams down by winning the battles in the trenches on both sides of the ball.”

Kenston doesn’t have a lot of kids going both ways, especially in the lines, and they began to have more good fortune that way in the second half.

The first three possessions for NDCL, which got the ball to open the second half, hoping to keep momentum going, ended in pass interceptions for Kenston. Koenig was forced to run for his life many times as the speedy Bombers broke through on the pass rush. Ben DiMarco got the first pick and took it 33 yards to set up a 12-yard Georgiou run for a touchdown.

J.P. Germano stopped what looked like a solid reprisal drive from the Lions with a pick at his own 19, returning it 46 yards before being forced out of bounds. Sean Patrick scored from 14 yards out two plays later.

Again the Lions drove into Kenston territory, offering hope of a possible scoring fest against teams with solid defensive aspirations and reputations. But Kenston stepped up again, with DiMarco getting his second pick of the night at his own 38 ,setting his team up in Lion territory at the 44 yard line. Patrick scored again from the 10, and the route was on, supposedly.

However, NDCL closed the third period by moving 80 yards in just over two minutes, with Ashton Gotham capping the drive with 10:10 left in the game from the 5 yard line.

After Nick Cowoski picked off another Koenig pass for the fifth interception of the night for Kenston, a punt set the Lions back to their own 1 yard line with about seven minutes left to play, and Kenston clung to a 35-16 lead.

Finally getting a running game going against the swarming Kenston defense, NDCL drove the length of the field to a one-yard rush by Mark Tomei for the final scoring.

“We knew we had to match their speed tonight to have a chance,” NDCL coach Andrew Mooney said. “We couldn’t do it consistently, and it came down to Kenston playing more mistake-free football than we did. We simply shot ourselves in the foot way too often tonight.

“It might have been different if we didn’t have those big interceptions in the second half, especially, but we’re a young team that is still learning on the fly as we go. There has been so much information and procedures to adapt to for everybody the last couple of years, and we’re still learning how to get things done.”

The final score was reasonably close, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Kenston led in total yards, 312-283. With NDCL controlling the ball more in the second half, though, the Lions had 21 first downs compared to 14 for Kenston. The Bombers just had the big plays that stood up.

The teams combined for 15 assessed penalties, seven turnovers total, which kept the game from having a lot of smooth playing. Patrick gained 88 yards on 16 carries for Kenston, and Georgiou had 51 yards on 10 carries to go with three touchdowns.

Georgiou didn’t have much need to pass in the second half, ending with eight completions in 15 tries for 117 yards.

Taking to the airways in the second half, Koenig hit on 19 of 40 passes for 163 yards, but those five picks were costly. The Kenston defense harassed him all night, keeping him in negative rushing yardage until late in the game. Nine yards on 17 tries is not his normal output.

Will Eppich snared six of his passes, though, to lead the way in that stat.

“We did a good job of executing our game plan,” Grubich said. “We felt, with our speed and quickness, we could bring more pressure to their offense and exploit it, and it worked very well for us when we needed it.”

This was a fine way to get another good neighborhood rivalry going. These teams don’t quit or slow down, and the Bombers just took more advantage of mistakes in this game. Kenston remains unbeaten at 3-0, while the Lions, playing a tough schedule as they return to normal football operations, now stand at 1-2 on the young season.