Highland stuns Nordonia football in overtime

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Nordonia wide reciever Cooper Rusk breaks loose for a big gain during the Knights' 44-38 overtime loss to Medina Highland Sept. 118 at Boliantz Stadium.

A week after one of the best offensive performances in school history vs. rival Wadsworth, Nordonia football seemed to be rolling.

However, another Medina County-based squad came into Boliantz Stadium Sept. 18 and brought the Knights' momentum to a halt.

After rallying to tie its game with Highland on a last-second field goal, Nordonia was unable to score in overtime and lost 44-38.

The Knights lost after Highland's Lukas Stiles ran in an 11-yard touchdown in the first session of overtime.

Nordonia fell to 2-2 on the season, while Highland improved to 2-1.

Knights coach Jeff Fox gave credit to the Hornets for the win.

"Coach [Mike] Simmons and their staff did a great job and had a game plan," Fox said. "They really played to their strengths."

Highland's biggest strength was its running game, as the Hornets rushed for 371 yards on the Nordonia defense to 94 yards for the Knights.

"You've got to stop the run to force them to do other things," Fox said. "They did a great job of controlling the ball and controlling the clock with their running game."

Nordonia had no answer for the Hornets' one-two punch of running back Lukas Stiles and quarterback Aaron Filips. Stiles ran for 170 yards and five touchdowns on the night, while Filips had 24 rushes for 124 yards.

Fox said the Knights' defense needs to improve after Nordonia gave up at least 40 points for the fourth straight game.

"What we have to do right now is get back to trusting one another on the defensive side of the ball," Fox said. "We need to not compound mistakes when things aren't going our way. It's a pivotal moment for our team to learn from this."

As much as the defense is struggling, Nordonia's offense remains in high gear.

Knights quarterback Billy Levak went 16-of-34 for 348 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran in Nordonia's lone rushing touchdown on the night.

Running back Sal Perrine led the Knights with 22 rushes for 112 yards.

"Our entire offense was playing well," Fox said. 

Nordonia scored the lone touchdown in the first quarter when Levak hit Matt Hayes with a 65-yard bomb for a touchdown at the 10:26 mark.

However, Stiles scored on touchdown runs of 19 and 1 yards in the second quarter, sandwiched around an 11-yard touchdown pass from Levak to Perrine.

Highland was able to take a 17-14 lead at the half as kicker Avery Gerney nailed a 29-yard field goal as time expired

"The second quarter was a pivotal time in the game," Fox said. "Highland was able to control the ball and that set them up."

The second half was a back-and-forth affair.

Nordonia opened the second half with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Levak to Joel Jones, giving the Knights a 21-14 with 10:45 left in the third.

Jones had a huge night with seven receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown.

However, Highland answered with two more touchdown runs by Stiles from 1 and 5 yards. Despite a missed extra point, Highland led 30-21 after the first play of the fourth quarter.

Nordonia would reply. A 58-yard touchdown pass from Levak to Cooper Rusk cut the lead to 30-28. Rusk finished with five catches for 121 yards.

Levak then hooked up with Jones for a 36-yard pass, which led to Levak plunging into the end zone from a yard out, giving Nordonia a 35-30 lead with 8:15 left.

Highland's answer was an 11-play drive. After 10 straight runs, Filips hit Max Kohmann with a 20-yard touchdown pass, giving the Hornets a 38-35 lead with just 1:46 left.

Nordonia got inside the Hornets' 10-yard line after a 17-yard pass from Levak to Jones. However, after two straight incomplete passes, the Knights called on kicker Andrew Lastovka, who nailed a 23-yard field goal, sending the contest to overtime.

"We got down there with about 12 seconds left and we were out of timeouts," Fox said. "We were able to take two shots, but not able to call our normal plays because of the time.

"I was proud of how our team executed in the drive. Andrew's done a really good job really for years preparing for situations like that."

In the first overtime, Highland stuck with its game plan. Four straight runs culminated with an 11-yard touchdown run from Stiles. However, Gerney's extra point was no good.

A touchdown with the extra point could win the game for the Knights, but Nordonia never got close to the end zone as an illegal block penalty set them back.

On fourth-and-9 from the 17, Levak was sacked by Highland to end the game.

The Knights will look to rebound when they host North Royalton Sept. 25 at Boliantz Stadium.