Twinsburg football puts it all together to beat Brush in playoffs
LYNDHURST — After getting a late start to the season due to COVID-19, Twinsburg football had little to show from its four-week regular season.
Turnovers, mistakes and stout competition left the Tigers at 0-4.
With the Ohio HIgh School Athletic Association opening its playoffs to all teams, however, Twinsburg had a shot at redemption in its first playoff game since 2010.
Suffice to say, the Tigers chose an opportune time to put it all together.
Twinsburg scored a comprehensive 42-14 win over Brush Oct. 9 at Korb Field in Lyndhurst in the Division II, Region 5 opening-round playoff game.
It was the Tigers' first playoff victory since beating Sylvania Southview in the Division I playoffs in 2010.
There was a sense of both elation and relief for the Tigers (1-4) after the win as head coach Mike Bell admitted both and that his team needed the victory.
"This is the exact kind of way I wanted us to play," Bell said. "The kids needed this to get a morale boost. We played very well tonight."
Twinsburg quarterback Trevor Horvath had his best game as a Tiger. The junior went 17 of 27 for 301 yards and four touchdowns and led a Tiger offense that played turnover-free ball.
"It felt really good to play this well at last," Horvarth said. "The line did a great job for me. Our whole offense played well tonight."
Meanwhile, Brush committed several costly mistakes early and never got their offense really going.
"It's tough when that stuff happens early," said Tigers coach Eddie Hall. "I'm proud of our seniors and all the adversity we overcame this year, both with injuries and with COVID."
Brush got senior quarterback A.J. Shorts back after a month out with a knee injury, but the Arcs captain had a tough night.
It began after Brush's first drive stalled. Shorts' punt was blocked by the Tigers, and Twinsburg was in business at the Brush 36.
Three plays later, Horvath hit Alex Branch on a crossing route for a 39-yard touchdown. Shantonu Banerjee went 6 of 6 on extra points for the Tigers.
Branch was Horvath's favorite target, snagging six catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
"He's such an athletic guy," Horvath said of Branch. "He showed why he's a D-I college prospect tonight."
Twinsburg took advantage of another mistake by Shorts, as he fumbled on the Arcs' next drive. Tiger linebacker Joe Bova pounded on the ball at the 10 for the game's lone turnover.
One play later, Horvath hit Nathan Christiansen in the corner of the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0.
Brush answered when Shorts hit Jaylen Richardson with a 32-yard slant route for a touchdown, cutting it to 14-7.
Shorts had a few highlights, finishing the night 11 of 29 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. But the dual-threat quarterback was no factor in the running game as Brush's triple-option running game was ineffective most of the night.
"We struggled to get it going tonight," Hall said. "Credit to Twinsburg for the job they did. I think coach Bell is doing a great job with them."
Having not scored more than 20 points in any game, Twinsburg eclipsed that total in the first quarter.
Horvath tossed his third touchdown of the night on a 45-yard crossing route to Logan Genos, who scored with seven seconds left in the first quarter to make it 21-7.
The Tigers' onslaught slowed a bit in the second quarter, but Horvarth would find Branch in the end zone from 20 yards with 2:42 left, giving the Tigers a 28-7 lead at the half.
Twinsburg was most dangerous when Horvath was able to roll out of the pocket. Bell noted run-and-throw style suits Horvath perfectly.
"We like those sprint out passes because that's where he feels most comfortable," Bell said. "I think the o-line did a great job tonight, keeping No. 8 (Horvath) clean and leading the way."
One other thing Twinsburg did well: They responded every time Brush tried to get back in the game.
After both offenses sputtered early in the third quarter, Shorts gave the Arcs a glimmer of hope with Brush's biggest play of the game.
Shorts hit Richardson over the middle with a 51-yard strike for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 28-14 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
Twinsburg answered with its biggest play of the night.
Horvath connected with Cade Laverdiere on a perfectly timed slant route and Laverdiere turned it into a 71-yard sprint, only to be denied scoring on a touchdown saving tackle at the Arcs 2.
The Tigers cashed in on the next play as Aaron Wallace plunged in for a 2-yard touchdown with 2:42 left in the third.
With Aidan Corrigan out, Wallace carried the load for the Tiger running game most of the night. He finished with 22 rushes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Twinsburg iced the game in the fourth quarter by finding its running game, with converted tight end Dylan Crouch doing most of the work.
After a 23-yard run earlier in the drive — Twisnburg's longest run of the night — Crouch was rewarded with a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
With the win, Twinsburg has earned a date with Austintown-Fitch, who was given the No. 2 seed in Division II, Region 5. The Tigers travel to Austintown Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.
"We're excited about that trip," Bell said. "We're just going to get back to work and see what happens."