Aurora football dominates Twinsburg in playoff warm-up game

Steve Batko
Correspondent
Aurora junior Ryan Weber goes up for a catch over Twinsburg senior Manny Curtis during Aurora's 38-0 home win over Twinsburg Oct. 3.
Aurora junior quarterback Alex Moore looks to pass during the Greenmen's 38-0 home win over Twinsburg Oct. 3.

An annual neighborhood Suburban League cross division gridiron battle saw two clubs going in different directions.

Defending American Division champion Aurora looks to be hitting on all cylinders after a state semifinal effort in the 2019 Division III playoffs.

Thanks to a hot start, host Aurora moved to 5-1 in a dominating 38-0 win that featured a running clock after a 31-0 first half over Twinsburg at Veterans Stadium.

Twinsburg (0-4) struggled offensively against an Aurora defense that has some experience.

The Tiger offense was held to 73 total yards and six first downs.

With a 267-48 total yard advantage at the half, Aurora cruised to victory as Greenmen head coach Bob Mihalik and Twinsburg mentor Mike Bell emptied the benches.

“We played a good football team and we just did not play well,” said Bell.

Junior quarterback Alex Moore was outstanding for Aurora.

Moore was near perfect through the air, torching the Tiger secondary by hitting 14 out 16 passes for 176 yards, and one touchdown.

On the ground, excluding sacks, Moore had seven rushes for 35 yards and two more scores for the junior dominant Greenmen.

“We thought it was a complete win for us in all three phases as our defense held Twinsburg to under 100 yards, but Twinsburg is actually a very good team and is a few plays from two wins this year,” said Mihalik.

“Alex is something crazy like completing 28 of 32 passes in the past two weeks, and our offense was very efficient in the first half.”

“He (Moore) is a talented thrower and I think the key is that we have a clean pocket for him so Alex can go through his progressions,” added Mihalik. “When he can do that, he will always be successful.”

Scoring on its first four drives of the game, the Aurora offense saw versatile senior Evan McVay start the barrage with an eight-yard touchdown run at the 8:50 mark. McVay would later leave the game with an injury to his left hand.

Aurora’s staff will monitor the health of senior linemen Cole Palian (concussion), McVay, and senior defensive back and slotback Jordan DeMicco (knee) as this trio covers a slew of roles in all three facets of the game.

After a second Tiger punt, Aurora hit paydirt again when Moore scored on a five-yard keeper to make it 14-0 at the 7:30 mark.

The TD was set by a 47-yard pass in the middle of the field to wide open junior wide receiver Ryan Weber (five catches for 86 yards), who consistently beat Tiger coverage.

Aurora’s defense had another stop and promptly responded with a textbook 16-play, 87-yard scoring drive capped by a five-yard Moore pass to wide open junior back Aiden Henderson to push it to 21-0 at the 9:48 mark of the second quarter.

Junior wide out Jack Cardaman (four catches 39 yards and 14 yards rushing) made an impact on defense as he then intercepted two passes for Aurora, the first, setting up a 10-yard Moore TD run to push the score to 28-0.

Twinsburg’s defense held on the next drive, which reached Tiger territory, but Tiger lineman Michael Penny had two straight sacks of Moore.

Penny also had a tackle for a loss as the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior sparked the Tiger defense.

With over 30 years of coaching football, Mihalik was able to use that to lead Aurora to one more score as the hosts had the ball at the Tiger 33 with 39 ticks left in the first half.

Aurora’s Jacob Matousek called for a fair catch on the Tiger punt and there is a ruling that a team can have an uncontested free kick field goal attempt from that spot on the field. If the kicker misses, the defense gets immediate possession back.

Senior Mason Bizjak drilled the 43-yard field goal to make it 31-0 with 39 ticks left. The boot enabled Aurora to start the third period with a running clock.

The Greenmen defense got another turnover early midway through the third period on a fumble recovery by senior Josh Sweatt, but the Tiger defense held as Mihalik used his youth.

After a tackle behind the line by Tiger senior end Sir Ronte Hobdy, Aurora freshman quarterback Brandon Leipens scored his first varsity TD on a three-yard run with 9:20 left in the game.

Hayden Hall booted the extra point as the Aurora senior made it 38-0.

“We had a recent injury to (sophomore QB) Matt Geier, who gives us a jolt of energy with his running (the team’s third top rusher entering the game), it was nice to see Brandon get his first TD, and he has nice size (6-2, 190),” said Mihalik.

Aurora’s defense was led by junior linebacker Ryan Papesh (eight stops, one behind the line), Cardaman, junior backers Zach Mohan and Dylan Fishback, and sophomore George Gomez.

Thanks to a stop behind the line by Tiger senior Darryl Kirkpatrick, Twinsburg’s young subs had some success on offense.

Sophomore punter Ryan Barnes did well and came in late at quarterback and had a good run and a nice six-yard pass to promising 6-5, 190-pound sophomore TE-DE Declan Malanchek. Junior Keyshon Rondo also had a five-yard catch.

In addition, 190-pound freshman running back Joey Jacofsky had three rushes for seven yards as seniors Aiden Corrigan (four rushes for 15 yards) and Aaron Wallace (eight for 13 yards) were held in check.

“We got Barnes and Jacofsky some work and they did well,” Bell noted.

“Melanchek has done a nice job all year helping on defense and he is really starting to develop for us,” added Bell.

Junior QB Trevor Horvath (51 total yards) was intercepted twice by Cardaman and was victimized by a few more dropped passes.

Horvath’s classmate, wide out Nathan Christensen had two receptions for 21 yards as the duo has shown chemistry.

“I think that Nathan (Christensen) has done incredibly well and does a nice job catching the ball,” explained Bell.

“We talk as a staff and one of few things we can do to help Trevor (Horvath) is to catch the ball and we need to increase the ability to run the football, and to make him comfortable in the pocket.”

“Nathan has done a good job and more importantly, his blocking has been very good,” added Bell.

Twinsburg received the 18th seed in the new-look, all-inclusive post season.

The Tigers, competing in Division II, region 5, will play a first-round game at 15th seed Lyndhurst Brush (2-4) Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. The winner plays Oct. 16 against second seed and state-ranked Austintown Fitch (6-0) at 7 p.m.

“I think the seeding went close to how I had it and there are mixed feelings across Ohio on everyone being invited, but I think it will be a great experience for every young man to have a chance to play in the state,” added Bell.

The fifth seed in Division III, region 9, Aurora has a first-round bye and will play Oct. 16 at home (7 p.m.).

However, Mihalik has elected to play during that week – to maintain the team’s rhythm and for other reasons. Aurora added a home game against Copley (5-0) on Oct. 9 (7 p.m.).

“We thought about it as a staff and we have only eight starters back from last year, we are still a young team,” said Mihalik.

Aurora will host the winner of the first-round Oct. 9 clash between 12th-seeded Louisville (2-4 against a strong slate) and Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (2-3), the 21st seed.

The region 9 field is loaded with top seeds like Chardon, Streetsboro, Canfield, and New Philadelphia – only one loss among those clubs, plus Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary as the sixth seed, powerhouse Steubenville at seven, followed by Geneva, Hubbard and Dover to round out the top 10.

“Region 9 is a meat grinder and we have our work cut out for us,” noted Mihalik.