CANFIELD, Ohio — Tommy Gogolin went off for 357 rushing yards and Rocco Alfieri scored four touchdowns as Kirtland powered its way to a 41-6 victory over Fort Frye in the Division VI state semifinals Saturday at South Range High School.
The Hornets (15-0) will play Marion Local (15-0) in next Saturday’s state championship game in Canton. The Cadets finished the 2022 season with a 13-2 record after making their third ever Final Four appearance.
Kirtland’s powerful rushing attack was on full display early, as Alfieri, who rushed 18 times for 93 yards, found the end zone three times in the first half to help KHS go up 20-0.
Gogolin, who also carried 18 times, scored from 61 yards out to send the Hornets into the locker room with a 27-0 halftime advantage.
Fort Frye answered with an impressive drive in the third quarter. A 50-yard pass from Clayton Miller to Braxton Brown, followed by a 10-yard run by Austin Powell, helped set up Owen Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run to get the Cadets within three scores, 27-6.
Fort Frye’s momentum was quickly halted as Kirtland needed just two plays to answer. Gogolin found the end zone from 65 yards out to make it 34-6, and in the fourth Alfieri found the end zone for the fourth time on the night to cap the scoring.
“Defensively in the second half I felt like we were playing much better,” said Fort Frye head coach Eric Huck. “It seemed like we were either making a big stop or they were making a big play. A lot of times it looked like we had them wrapped up at the line of scrimmage, but then they found a crease and a couple times they took it to the house.”
Kirtland totaled 550 yards of offense, including 467 on 45 rushes. Quarterback Jake Laverde added 83 yards on 3 of 8 passing, including a 46-yard strike to Philip Laverde and a 32-yarder to Gogolin, who finished with 389 total yards.
Fort Frye’s offense came out humming and put together an impressive opening drive. The Cadets were methodical, as Miller completed a 14-yard pass to Ethan Duskey on a third-and-8 and later ran for 5 yards on a fourth-and-5. From the Kirtland 24, Miller threw a strike to Braxton Brown in the end zone, but the ball was jarred lose when Brown hit the ground. The next play, though, Brown caught a 9-yard pass to move FFHS closer. With first-and-10 from the 11, Miller tried to find Brown again but Kirtland was called for pass interference to set up first-and-goal. The Cadets attempted once more to target Brown in the end zone, but this time Kirtland got pressure on Miller and forced a throw behind Brown that was intercepted by Will Bates.
“We had that nice first drive there, then had that interception,” coach Huck said. “I felt like we were moving the ball well at times. At times defensively we looked really good, they’re just a very good football team. If you don’t do the right thing every time, they’re going to make you pay.”
Kirtland then put together a 13-play, 93-yard drive that made it 14-0. After the Cadets were forced to punt on their ensuing possession, the Hornets were in total control.
“When they went down and scored and went up two scores, that just kind of changed the momentum and everything of that game,” coach Huck said. “Could’ve played better.”
Fort Frye was held to 124 rushing yards on 36 carries. Owen Brown led the team with 44 yards on 11 rushes. Miller completed 8 of 16 passes for 96 yards. He was intercepted three times — once by Bates and twice by Gino Blasini. His top target was Braxton Brown, who caught four passes for 74 yards. Brown also had an interception on defense while Zaiden Huck had a team-high nine tackles.
“It’s a long season to play 15 games,” coach Huck said. “Our guys are beat up. They’ve been working so extremely hard. This group of seniors is a great group. They won two regional championships in their four years they were here. They’ve been great leaders, played so hard and worked so hard over the last four years. Hate for it to be the end.”
Jordan Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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