One play can be the turning point of a football game. Just like that, the momentum can switch from one team to the other.
That is exactly what happened Friday in Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s 37-20 victory over Wooster Triway at Royals Stadium as CVCA opened Principals Athletic Conference play.
CVCA improved to 3-1 overall.
After Triway went ahead 20-17 early in the third quarter on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ty Durbin to Tyler Davis, senior Austen Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown that gave the Royals a 24-20 lead.
"All week, we were trying to get the ball in Austen’s hands, and kick return is one of those ways," CVCA head coach Dan Larlham said. "Teams are going to start kicking away from him, and I think Triway was a little bit.
"We had our guys shuffle around in the back of our kick return unit so Austen could get the ball. We had a couple good blocks and he took it all the way."
CVCA upped its lead to 30-20 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter when senior outside linebacker Andre Price returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.
"Triway had been throwing the ball around the yard," said Larlham. "Their quarterback was scrambling a whole lot, looking downfield. On the pick-six, he just didn’t see Andre, who stepped out in front and got to the end zone."
CVCA put the game away early in the fourth quarter when junior quarterback Mike Bevington raced 45 yards down the middle of the field for a touchdown for the final points of the night.
"The offensive line kept pounding and kept pounding and kept pounding, and it all came together on that play," Larlham said. "Triway was playing cover-zero all night, so they had no safety in the middle of the field. And 45 yards later, we were in the end zone."
The CVCA coach was happy with how his team exploded in the second half.
"We finished well," he said. "We were in better shape. Our guys weren’t tired. I told them all week, ‘Triway has a lot better athletes than we do, but I think we have better football players.’ There’s a difference. If we were playing pickup basketball, I’d take Triway’s roster. But we were playing high school football, and our guys like the game and they play it the right way."
Triway took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Durbin to Davis.
Early in the second quarter, CVCA tied the score on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Bevington to sophomore wide receiver Noah Atwood.
"It was second-and-long," said Larlham. "We’d just given up a sack, and we needed a chunk play. I wanted to take a shot. Triway was playing a lot of man coverage against us all night, and Mike liked the matchup. He put the ball up where only Noah could get it, and Noah made a great catch in the end zone. And, remember, Noah still has a big brace on his wrist from breaking his wrist earlier in the season. That was a huge play."
After Durbin and Davis connected again, this time on a 17-yard touchdown pass as Triway forged back ahead 14-7, senior running back Shane Douglas tied the score at 14 on a 6-yard touchdown run.
The home team took its first lead at 17-14 when junior Bryce Kightlinger kicked a 30-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
"Bryce is a weapon," Larlham said. "He might be the specialist of the year in the conference because he’s so consistent. He takes his job so seriously, and he works so hard at it. We have a lot of faith in him when he goes out to kick."
Bevington was a dual threat, completing seven of 10 passes for 117 yards and rushing the ball 22 times for 127 yards.
"Mike is the one who makes us go offensively," said the coach. "He gets up in the right plays and makes the right decisions. He took chances when he had to a couple of times but didn’t take any unnecessary risks."
Atwood had two receptions for 86 yards, including a 52-yarder.
"On the 52-yarder, we were backed up on our 8-yard line," Larlham said. "We got great protection and ran Noah on a post. Triway was playing man coverage, so we knew the middle of the field was open. Noah was able to get behind his guy, and Mike threw a ball that came out of the sky. It dropped in perfectly."
Sophomore wide receiver Brennan Darr caught two passes for 20 yards.
Douglas had 34 yards rushing on 10 carries, while freshman running back Kyle Snider ran the ball 10 times for 24 yards. Williams, playing wide receiver, had a 21-yard run.
Larlham was a little nervous when his coordinator and secondary coach said they wanted the defense to play as aggressively as it did.
"But our guys responded the right way," he said of his unit that limited Triway to 231 total yards after it had been averaging about 400 yards per game. "To shut an offense down like that … that’s what won the game. Our defense has had to carry us a little bit this season."
Price had a second interception, and senior free safety Peyton Beebe also picked off a pass. Both were in the CVCA end zone, thus thwarting Titan drives.
"When you’re plus-three in the turnover battle, you should come out on top, and we did," said Larlham.
Snider, playing inside linebacker, led the Royals with a dozen tackles.
"The best play Kyle made was when he actually missed a tackle when the quarterback was scrambling around, got up and relentlessly pursued the football and made the tackle on the quarterback," Larlham said. "Kyle is smart, wise beyond his years. He knows the game and is a natural football player. He’s just an incredibly sound tackler. I’m lucky I get to coach a kid like that."
CVCA is scheduled to play at Navarre Fairless Friday and is scheduled to host Canal Fulton Northwest Oct. 4. Both are PAC games that are set to kick off at 7 p.m.