TWINSBURG — One of the basic rules of football is the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game.
The young teams from Twinsburg and Nordonia have been taught that lesson the hard way to start the season.
When the two squads met Friday at Tiger Stadium, it was Nordonia who took advantage of the takeaways.
The Knights intercepted four Twinsburg passes. These interceptions led to 24 points, and the Knights ran away with a 38-10 win over the Tigers in Twinsburg in the Suburban League National Conference opener for both squads.
Nordonia improved to 2-2, 1-0 in the National Conference, while the Tigers dropped to 1-3, 0-1 in the conference.
Knights coach Jeff Fox labeled his defense "opportunistic," as the Knights did not allow a touchdown until their reserves were sent in during the fourth quarter.
"That’s the mark of a good defense, being able to take advantage of our chances," Fox said. "We love to be aggressive on defense.
"When we consistently have attacked and we haven’t made mistakes, we’ve shown we have the potential to be a good football team."
Meanwhile Tigers coach Mike Bell said there’s not much for his team to do but try to move forward and get better.
"We’ve had bit of the turnover bug a couple times this year and it’s hurt us," Bell said. "Many things led to us to having a very disappointing night tonight."
Emblematic of the night for Twinsburg may have been the games first score.
Twinsburg marched right down the field on its opening drive, getting the ball down to the Knights’ 1 yard line. However, Nordonia’s defense stuffed running back Jamir James, then also stuffed Tiger quarterback Aiden Corrigan at the 1, forcing Twinsburg to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Brett Callow.
"There were opportunities, especially in the first half, on the field for us, that we didn’t take advantage of," Bell said. "I’ve been saying all year that were were a young team, but its week four now. We’ve got to find ways to get better.
Twinsburg had another such opportunity when Dominick Glenn picked off Nordonia quarterback Billy Levak and returned it all the way to the Knights’ 10 yard line. However, on third and goal at the five, Nordoani’s D’Anthony Valentine picked off Corrigan at the goal line and returned it to the Knights’ 5.
That turnover started a 95-yard drive for the Knights, which culminated with a 21-yard touchdown run from Sal Perrine with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
Perrine led all rushers with 21 carries for 133 yards and one touchdown, as Nordonia finished with a 228-125 edge in rushing yards.
Fox said Nordonia felt good emphasizing the running game Friday.
"Part of it was the way the game went," Fox said. "We wanted to control the ball and we respected their defense."
Up 7-3 after one quarter, Nordonia was able to work the clock perfectly to end the first half. The drive started when Knight linebacker Ryan Short picked off Corrigane at the Twinsburg 45 with 3:18 left in the half.
Nordonia relied on its running game to get the ball down until Marvahun Johnon plunged into the endzone from a yard out with 8 second left in the half.
The Knights’ offense came out blazing in the third quarter. After a 32-yard run from Perrine set Nordonia up at the Tiger 9, Levak kept a read-option run for a 7-yard touchdown with 9:58 left in the third.
After forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs in Knight territory. Nordonia got its biggest offensive play of the Knight when Levak hit Jon Henderson with a short pass that Henderson turned into a 69-yard touchdown with 4:49 left in the third.
Levak had a solid game, finishing 11-of-17 for 149 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran nine times for 46 yards.
Short’s second interception of the night let to a 29-yard field goal with 43 second left in the third. It also spelled the end of the night for Corrigan at quarterback, as Bell put senior Ryan Christensen in at quarterback.
"At that point of the game, it wasn’t a demotion for Aidan," Bell said. "It was just us trying to try something different. Kind of like trying a different pitcher in baseball."
Unfortunately for Twinsburg, Nordonia’s final score came on its fourth interception of the night.
With 7:13 left in the game, Nordonai junior Rien Reese picked off Christensen and returned the ball 52 yards to make it 38-3.
Twinsburg was able to get one touchdown with 2 minutes left in the game, Christensen hit Amaee Cunningham with a swing pass for an eight-yard touchdown.
In his time at quarterback, Christensen went 6-of-10 for 66 yards. Twinsburg was led by James with seven rushes for 44 yards.
Nordonia will return home Friday to take on Wadsworth at 7 p.m. while the Tigers will travel to Cuyahoga Falls Friday at 7 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO