AURORA — For the first time in its five-year history in the Suburban League, Kent Roosevelt finds itself residing in the high rent district of the American Division.
The Rough Riders started the second half of the 2019 campaign tied with Barberton and Aurora atop the American standings. Both the Rough Riders and the Magics entered play Friday night with 2-0 division marks, while the Greenmen entered their home contest with Roosevelt with a 1-0 record.
However, on a cool fall evening, host Aurora showed the Rough Riders they still have a ways to go following a decisive 41-0 victory at Veterans Stadium.
Six different Greenmen scored touchdowns as Aurora overcame three turnovers and double-digit penalties to record its third shutout of the season.
Head coach Bob Mihalik's squad has now surrendered just 26 points in six games and is plus-10 in turnover differential after forcing five Roosevelt miscues.
"Our defense has just been playing well all year," said Mihalik, now in his 19th season overseeing the program. "They are the strength of our team. When you shut someone out you can't lose.
"Offensively, it wasn't our best night. We were very sloppy, penalties — I think we had two touchdowns called back — threw an interception on [Roosevelt] two-yard line, so we go into halftime up only 13-0 because of self-inflicted wounds. We have to keep working to get better at that, but it's a nice homecoming win. We'll take it, enjoy it because we have a big one coming up next week against Barberton."
The Greenmen started six of their first-half possessions in Rough Riders’ territory but came away with only 13 points as four holding penalties, a turnover and a couple of sacks prevented Aurora from enjoying an even larger halftime advantage.
The reason the Greenmen were given great field position was due to a defense that forced three Roosevelt turnovers and limited the Rough Riders to a mere 11 yards in total offense.
After a Drew Samaco 15-yard sack thwarted Aurora's first drive into Roosevelt's red zone, the Greemen returned the favor by jarring the ball loose from the Rough Riders' Raheem Howard on a second-down run and Aurora recovered at the Rocky River’s 12.
Two successive holding calls put the Greenmen in a first-and-28 hole, Aurora sophomore quarterback Alex Moore dumped a short pass to Evan McVay in the right flat that gained 13 yards.
On the next snap, Moore threw a 17-yard dart to senior John Papesh in the end zone for the game’s first score. The PAT was partially blocked and the scored stood at 6-0.
Anthony Gramm's 22-yard burst late in the half gave Aurora a two-touchdown edge at the intermission.
The Greenmen (6-0, 2-0) received the kick to start the third quarter and Papesh fielded a short kick at his 26 and proceeded to take it the other direction 49 yards to set up an Evan McVay 12-yard TD run to make it 20-0.
A week ago, the Rough Riders (3-3,2-1) found themselves down three touchdowns early in the third quarter and rallied for a huge win. Against the Aurora defense, there was never a window of opportunity.
"I'm not surprised," said Mihalik of his stellar defense. "Brian Wervey, our defensive coordinator, puts our kids in the right spots to make plays. They have to execute. It's a complete unit. [It] is going to keep us in every game, that's for sure."