CVCA football stages huge rally to stun West Branch

Eric Clutter
CVCA quarterback Michael Bevington rolls out of the pocket during the Royals' 35-21 loss in a Division IV playoff game vs. Lake Catholic in Mentor Oct. 24

Trailing West Branch 35-7 in the latter stages of the first half and having misfired on its first 11 pass attempts, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy never strayed from its original game plan and refused to abandon the run.

That confidence paid off over the final 27 minutes of play Nov. 6 at Royals Stadium, as CVCA executed a stunning comeback and defeated the Warriors 58-55.

CVCA sophomore running back Kyle Snider rushed for 254 yards and senior quarterback Michael Bevington was not far behind with 244 on the ground. The Royals outscored the Warriors 36-13 in during a back-and-forth affair in the second half.

"When you see 113 points scored in a high school football game, pretty crazy," said Warriors coach Ken Harris. "Our kids fought. They had a really good offensive line, obviously, and a tough runner. That is kind of what was the difference in the game.

Ironically, it was a sustained drive -- 6:15, to be exact --  that Bevington capped with a one-yard touchdown with 1:48 showing that gave the hosts breathing room at 58-48.

But the way this contest unfolded, as long as any time remained, no lead was safe.

Following Bevington's TD, West Branch, with no timeouts left, efficiently marched 65 yards in 1:36 to pull within 58-55 with 12 precious ticks showing on the clock.

 Of course, the Warriors successfully recovered the ensuing onside kick with eight seconds left to add to the drama.

On first down, West Branch quarterback Brock Hillyer completed a 16-yard pass to Andrew Coffee, who scurried out off bounds at the Royals' 38-yard line with a couple seconds left, giving the visitors once last hope.

Hillyer dropped back on the final snap and let fly a pass that Bevington picked off at the 3 to finally end the marathon.   

The Warriors end the season at 8-2 while the Royals moved to 8-3 and were set to play their season-finale Nov. 13 at Twinsburg.

Watching the first half of this game, no one would have come away expecting to see what happened at the end.

From the first snap of the game -- when West Branch's Jaxson Hendershott intercepted an option pass -- the Warriors had absolute control of the tilt, jumping out to a 42-22 lead and scoring every way imaginable.

They scored on the ground -- Alek Wilson's pair of TD runs. They scored through air -- Hillyer hit David McKeiver with an eight-yard scoring toss. They found the end zone defensively -- Nick Wilson returning an interception 38 yards for a score for the second straight Friday. It was Wilson who then returned an onside kick 50 yards for a score to make it 42-14 with 1:47 to go in the half. And before that, Hendershott returned a blocked punt 30 yards for a score.

CVCA got a pair of momentum-building TDs in the final two minutes of the second quarter and then posted another 21 points in the third stanza to turn this one-time route into a coin toss.

Bevington had scoring runs of 35 and 38 yards in a span of 53 seconds overlapping the first and second halves to make it 42-29.

He then hit Ty Bova with a 41-yard TD four minutes later to narrow the count to 42-36.

Snider then crossed the goal line to give CVCA its first lead of the night at 43-42 with 2:37 to play in the third quarter.

Hillyer's 13-yard TD run stopped the bleeding 1:40 seconds later, but that did not deter the Royals' resolve.

   Snider countered with a short TD run to make it 51-48 and after the CVCA defense forced a turnover-on-downs at its own 28, the Bevington-led offense took over with 8:03 left and proceeded to melt over six minutes off the clock and get a crucial score in the process.

The loss spoiled an exceptional effort from Nick Wilson. The junior defensive back had the pick-6, the kick-return TD, a receiving TD and a sack.

Hillyer finished with 282 yards passing and also 94 yards on the ground.