Senior running back Shane Douglas rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries in Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s season-opening 28-25 victory Aug. 30 over Villa-Angela-St. Joseph in Cleveland.
The MVP of the game, however, according to CVCA head coach Dan Larlham, was the Royals’ special teams.
"Our special teams was gigantic all night," he said. "Our punt team was phenomenal. Our kicker and punter, junior Bryce Kightlinger, kicked the ball where he was supposed to on kickoffs, he made all four of his extra points and he punted the football extremely accurately where we needed it to land.
"The special teams guys did what they were supposed to do, and VASJ’s special teams guys didn’t. David Lewis, a junior, made about every tackle on kickoffs, and our snapper, senior Steve Yashnik, and holder, senior Peyton Beebe, did very well, did their jobs.
"We made more plays on special teams that VASJ did because we actually give a crap about that at CVCA. Our special teams won us the game, and that’s important because we emphasize that every single day."
CVCA took a quick 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game that was capped by Douglas’ 2-yard touchdown run.
Douglas gave the Royals a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run that capped their second drive of the game.
"We were dominating early," said Larlham.
VASJ cut its deficit to 14-6 later in the second quarter on a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Sophomore outside linebacker Noah Atwood, with a cast on one hand, intercepted a pass in CVCA’s end zone at the end of the second quarter to preserve the Royals’ advantage.
But on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, the Vikings pulled within 14-12 on a 65-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing drive, CVCA extended its lead to 21-12 when Douglas rumbled for a 71-yard touchdown run.
"Everybody in the stadium tried to touch Shane, but he runs like a savage," Larlham said. "It’s a great highlight to watch. Some of the VASJ defenders were diving out of the way because they didn’t want to touch him. He’s just a big, angry, nasty dude, and it was fun to watch.
"Shane is the fastest kid on the team. Even though I can’t say he’s the most natural runner out there, he’s just too tough to tackle. Other than the 71-yarder, he averaged between four and five yards a carry, which is a decent average. We look for that from Shane. Three yards, four yards, five yards, four yards, five yards, three yards and then bam! Hit a 70-yarder, and that’s exactly what he did."
In the fourth quarter, VASJ made the score 21-19 on a 24-yard touchdown pass.
"They found some weak spots in our defense and started throwing the ball downfield and took advantage of some mismatches," said the coach.
Junior quarterback Mike Bevington scored on an 11-yard run to put CVCA back up by nine points, 28-19.
"It was an extremely physical run," Larlham said. "Mike’s not a big guy, but he made the right cut, made the right move, broke some tackles and got in the end zone.
"Mike didn’t throw the ball well at all. He’d tell you that he was off, that he made mistakes, that he’s not happy. When he knew that he wasn’t throwing the ball well, he ran it really well and had a couple 20-yarders and was effective and physical, and that’s what I look for in him. He’s the toughest kid on the team."
The Vikings pulled within 28-25 with 5:35 remaining on a 30-yard touchdown pass.
That was as close as they would get.
CVCA ran the clock down to about 30 seconds. Kightlinger then pinned the home team on its own 8-yard line with a perfect punt. A couple short completions later the game was over.
Defensively, Larlham was somewhat happy with his team’s performance.
"We’re a bend-but-don’t-break defense, but we broke too many times," he said. "What I think we did well, though, was get stops at the right times. We didn’t get enough stops, but we stopped them when we had to, and that was good enough to give our offense some momentum.
"Breslin Walker, a senior, was exceptional on the defensive line, and freshman Kyle Snider was in the right place all night at inside linebacker."
Larlham loved his team’s ferocity all night.
"It was really comforting to be the most physical football team on the field," he said, "and we showed that in the way we finished the game. And that’s what I want our team to be known for – to be the most physical football team on the field."
CVCA was scheduled to host Aurora Sept. 6.
The Royals are set to host Revere Sept. 13 also at 7 p.m.