Win Sets Up Rematch With Kenston
Game photos click here.
Paced by four defensive interceptions, Chardon defeated Geneva 35-7 to advance to the Division III Region 9 regional semifinals.
The victory setups up a rematch with archrival Kenston on Nov. 11 at Boardman Stadium in Youngstown.
In downing Geneva, the Hilltoppers jumped out to an early 21-0 lead thanks to touchdown runs by running backs AJ Bruce and Caleb Hewitt, plus senior quarterback Alex Henry.
Up by three scores midway through the second, Chardon struggled to move the ball for the remainder of the game.
While the offense had issues, the Topper defense had another banner night by getting four picks.
Chardon Head Coach Mitch Hewitt called the interceptions huge.
“Defense is something we’ve hung our hats around here for a long time, and it’s not going to change,” he said.
Senior defensive back Trey Liebhardt led the charge with a memorable performance of three picks. In a sense, he lived up to his name with the three interceptions.
“They kept throwing the ball up in the air, and I just tried to catch it,” Liebhardt said. “I just kept playing the ball.
“We knew they were going to air it out a little bit, but I figured after the first one or two picks they would stop. But I guess not.”
Liebhardt hauled in two picks in the second quarter and one in the quarter to kill three Eagle drives.
“That was the old Trey,” his coach said. “He missed a few weeks with injuries, and tonight he was on point. He’s a guy who loves the bright lights and has played under them his whole career.
“Every time I see an opponent throw the ball, I think about Trey lurking out there,” said senior linebacker Heath Fetchik.
Fellow defensive back Leo Colombi recorded Chardon’s other interception late in the first.
Overall, it was the second game the Hilltopper defense held its opponent to fewer than 125 yards. A week earlier against East, Chardon’s defense held the Dragons to 121 total yards of offense.
Facing the Eagles, the Toppers gave up 103 total yards of offense, 39 yards via the running attack and 64 yards through the air.
Down 21-0 midway through the third quarter, Geneva struck gold. For the first time in the contest, the Eagles were able to finish off a drive when sophomore Hayden Diemer scored on a 29-yard touchdown run.
Chardon, with their offense stuck in neutral due to an array of holding penalties and losing the line of scrimmage, was reeling. The Toppers needed gain the momentum back.
“We struggled offensively, and I was surprised by that,” Hewitt said. “Ultimately it’s my fault, because somewhere between Monday and Thursday I didn’t prepare them for that. We have to have answers.”
On their ensuing possession, it appeared the Toppers had nothing in the tank. However, a personal foul on the Eagles sparked the home team. Henry then hit Bruce over the middle for a big gain.
“That’s two playmakers,” said Hewitt. “Playmakers have to make plays.”
Two minutes into the final frame, Bruce finished it off with a 4-yard touchdown run.
“That response score was pretty huge,” said Fetchik.
Chardon would get the ball back just over a minute later, and junior quarterback Will Francis ripped off a 33-yard run to cap the score at 35-7.
This was the seniors’ last home game at Chardon Memorial Stadium – one last time to defend the hill.
“It’s crazy this was the last time,” admitted Fetchik. “It didn’t feel like it was that long ago I was a freshman.”
Throughout the week, he realized that this might not only be his last time defending the hill, but also the last game he played.
“We talked about it all week, that we had one last chance to defend the hill and we needed to get it done,” added Fetchik.
Both Liebhardt and Fetchik said the tradition and legend of Chardon’s program make their home turf so special. The winningest football class in school history wanted to go out on top, so they did.
“It’s pretty remarkable and one of those things you won’t appreciate until the dust settles because the mission is still ongoing,” Hewitt said. “They have a lot to be proud of, and there’s not many of them.”
Now, in order for this senior class to keep its quest for a third straight title alive, the Toppers will have to defeat Kenston again.
Earlier in the year, Chardon downed the Bombers 35-18.
“It’s two teams who know each other well and have a lot of respect for each other,” Hewitt said. “Both programs are pretty well coached and will be battling to advance to the regional finals.”
“We played them earlier in the year, but that’s not the same team,” said Fetchik. “They’ve got a really good running back, quarterback and a really good offense in general. It’s going to be tough.”
“Our preparation will be key,” Liebhardt said. “We’re going to watch a ton of film, because you have to know what you’re doing.”