CVCA football's ground game bulldozes Edgewood in playoff opener
CUYAHOGA FALLS — One of the oldest sayings in football is the team that wins the battle in the trenches usually wins the game.
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy gave a vivid display of how true that saying can be when it opened its Division IV, Region 13 playoff run Oct. 10.
Ashtabula Edgewood threw everything it could at the Royals, going for it often on fourth down and trying onside kicks on every kickoff.
In the end, it mattered not, as the Royals offensive line paved the way for CVCA to advance to the second round.
Behind a black and blue wall, CVCA racked up 467 rushing yards, rolling to a 55-21 win over Edgewood at Royals Stadium.
CVCA made it five straight wins to improve to 5-2 on the season. With the win, the Royals earned a shot at the No. 2 seed in Region 13: Perry. Edgewood dropped to 2-5 on the year.
CVCA coach Dan Lahlham and quarterback Michael Bevington each noted this game was won by the Royals' offensive line.
CVCA's front line consists of tackles JT Nichols and Jack Bova, guards David Glover and Tony Collins and center Joe Johnson.
"They've won the last five games for us," Larlham said. "I think we've done a lot of maturing over the course of this year."
"They're the backbone of our team ," Bevington said. "JT and Jack really hold it down for us up front. They take us wherever we need to go."
Bevington ran 11 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns, but the biggest benefactor of CVCA's line was running back Kyle Snider. The sophomore ran for 231 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries.
"That's just the way the game flowed," Snider said. "I love getting the ball, and I love following my offensive line."
"We feel like we've got the best 1-2 punch in our region," Larlham said. "We like to go with the guy who has the hot hand and tonight that was Kyle."
Warriors coach Jason Butchko said he knew his team could be in for a long night on the line.
"We were aware of that all week," Butchko said. "They've got a hell of a line. I don't think we've played a line that physical since our days in the All-American [Conference]. That's why we took so many chances. If we're going to compete, we've got to try different things."
Edgewood got the first two big breaks of the game. The Warriors recovered an onside kick to open the game, which led to 32-yard touchdown pass from Zach Winchell to Matt Annick with 10:29 left in the first.
Winchell had a solid game throwing the ball, as he went 21-of-37 for 281 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
CVCA's first drive then imploded when Snider fumbled the ball into the end zone.
After that, however, CVCA put up 34 unanswered points to take command of the game.
It began when Royal defensive back Eli Diakandru picked off Winchell to get the ball back. Two plays later, Bevington ran in a 15-yard touchdown run.
After CVCA's defense stiffened on Edgewood's next two drives, Snider came back with touchdown runs of 1 and 6 yards to give CVCA a 20-7 lead after one quarter. Bryce Kightlinger went 7-of-8 on extra points.
In the second quarter, Bevington scored twice. First, he ran in a 13-yard touchdown run with 5:26 to go in the half.
Then, Bevington lofted a perfect pass to Diakandru in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown, making it 34-7 with 2:01 left in the half.
To its credit, Edgewood didn't fold. In fact, it nearly got back in the game thanks to two big plays around halftime.
First, a Hail Mary pass from Winchell was batted around but caught by the Warriors' Brian Bisbey for a 32-yard touchdown as time expired in the first half.
Then, the Warriors returned CVCA's onside kick attempt to start the second half back to the Royals 20.
Edgewood looked like it could cut the deficit to 13 points. However, on fourth-and-goal from the Royals 2, CVCA's defense stuffed Winchell for no gain.
"I told Michael we might not throw the ball in the second half," Larlham said. "That's the thing he's gotten good at. Bevington does what I need him to do."
Indeed, CVCA's ground game produced a 98-yard drive to retake control of the contest. It was capped by Snider's third touchdown of the night, which came on a 49-yard sweep with 5:26 left in the third.
However, Bevington did make one big throw in the second half. With CVCA facing third-and-36, Bevington heaved a bomb to Brennan Darr, who outran the defense for a 73-yard touchdown pass to invoke the running clock.
Bevington finished the game 5-of-8 for 110 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The Royals emptied their bench in the fourth quarter, but the ground game kept coming.
In fact, reserve senior running back Clay Farley put up 83 yards on nine carries in the fourth quarter. Farley completed CVCA's scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run with 8:43 left.
As Larlham told his troops, "Big boy football starts next week." The Royals will travel to Perry Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. looking to avenge playoff losses to the Pirates in each of the last two seasons.
"Obviously, there's a chip on their shoulder from what happened the last two years," Larlham said. "You want to make sure we concentrate on ourselves though."