GRANGER TOWNSHIP — A certain 15th-century Italian navigator made a very blunt statement when it came to his historic sailing expeditions.
"My desire was not to pass any island without taking possession, so that, one having been taken, the same may be said of all."
Like Christopher Columbus, the Aurora football team has let nothing get in its way during its quest to conquer.
And as their last two voyages indicate, the Greenmen are achieving the same brutally efficient results.
Aurora remained unbeaten with a convincing 31-7 victory over host Highland Friday at Highland Stadium’s North Gateway Tire Field in Granger Township.
With the win, the Greenmen improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the Suburban League American Conference. The Hornets dropped to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the conference.
If Friday’s result looked eerily familiar, don’t scold yourself. That’s because Aurora invaded Barberton’s Rudy Sharkey Stadium the previous week and walked away with a — you guessed it — 31-7 victory.
Longtime Greenmen head coach Bob Mihalik will tell you such results are a mere coincidence. The typical workmanlike production that has been the norm for the first eight weeks, on the other hand, is not.
"If we can run the football, play some good defense and hit some play-action passes, we’re in sync," Mihalik said. "I was happy with our offense. We ran the ball well; we threw the ball well. Our defense played hard once again."
Since it has been so masterful on both sides of the ball, Aurora has done its best Julius Caesar imitation.
"Veni, vidi, vici." Or, to translate the legendary ruler’s rather matter-of-fact statement: "I came, I saw, I conquered."
Of course, Bob Mihalik prefers a far more friendlier approach when it comes to his conference rivals. Not anything like the ancient populist Roman dictator, at least.
"I have so much respect for their [the Hornets’] coaching staff," Mihalik said. "They had a great plan [Friday]. They were mixing up their defenses and their coverages. They were kind of confusing us a little bit in the first half."
It sure didn’t seem like it.
The Greenmen scored on two of their first three possessions and had a 48-yard field-goal attempt blocked late in the half.
Aurora, which has unleashed an aerial attack in recent years due to its personnel, returned to its roots against the overmatched Hornets.
The Greenmen put together punishing drives by overpowering Highland’s defensive front. As a result, Aurora ate up much of the clock on its scoring drives and had a field day racking up yards after contact.
The Hornets may have gone a bit outside the box to neutralize the Greenmen’s defense. Aurora, on the other hand, kept it astonishingly simple. The Greenmen ran the ball a total of 50 times.
Aurora ran for 239 yards and moved the chains 24 times to completely wear down Highland’s defense.
Thus, the resounding victory took barely more than two hours to complete.
"We had a great offseason and I think it’s paid off," Mihalik said. "Knock on wood, we’ve been primarily injury-free all year. We dressed 61 out of 62 guys [Friday]. For a Week 8, that’s unheard of."
The Greenmen outgained the Hornets 358-170. Johnny Papesh had a 5-yard touchdown run and also caught a 15-yard TD pass from quarterback Alex Moore.
Moore, a sophomore, continues to evolve as the team’s first-year field general. He completed 11-of-18 passes for 119 yards and also ran for 40 yards in eight attempts.
"Alex Moore had a really good night, running and throwing," Mihalik said.
Tony Gramm had a 17-yard scoring run and Ben Rogge scored from 5 yards away for Aurora, which led 14-0 at halftime. Greenmen kicker Alex Bibza added a 31-yard field goal. Gramm led the Aurora rushing attack with 59 yards on 17 carries. A total of 12 running backs accumulated positive yardage for the Greenmen.
Highland (2-6, 1-3) got its only score in the third quarter when quarterback Bryce Profitt completed a 16-yard TD pass to Jake Osborne.
Although his team was up 21-7 when the Hornets scored their only touchdown, Mihalik was extremely impressed with Highland’s 12-play, 77-yard scoring possession.
"They made some good adjustments on their side of the ball and went right down and scored, which nobody has really done against our defense this year," Mihalik said. "That’s a good football program over there.
"We told the kids, ‘They’re 2-5, but they’re not a 2-5 football team.’ They lost to a lot of tough teams. They were on a two-game winning streak. We were scared to death. We prepared hard all week and our kids executed."
The Greenmen entered the game ranked third in the Division III, Region 9 computer ratings. Aurora also is the lone unbeaten team in the conference.
Therefore, the chances of reaching the playoffs and capturing a conference title seem highly likely for the proud football squad that makes its home on West Pioneer Trail.
And like the ambitious Columbus did when he discovered a viable sailing route to the Americas, the Greenmen have overcome "all obstacles and distractions" to "unfailingly arrive at their chosen goal or destination."
They still may want to consider one more piece of advice, though. And it has nothing to do with Aurora’s final two opponents.
"Make good decisions," Mihalik said. "The only thing that can stop us is ourselves right now."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.