CANTON, Ohio — It had to end at some point, unfortunately.
Kirtland's magical run of 55 wins in a row was stopped Saturday night with a 20-16 loss to Versailles in the OHSAA Division V state football championship game. The Hornets fell behind 20-3 early in the second half, with a furious comeback attempt coming too little, too late.
Tiger quarterback Carson Bey was the best player on the field all evening long, constantly making defenders miss while tallying 215 total yards and two touchdowns. The first gave Versailles (15-1) a 6-0 lead after the game's opening drive.
Kirtland (14-1) would drive right down the field on its first possession, but settled for a Johnny Raguz field goal, and moments later Bey found unheralded receiver Michael Osborne for a 24-yard score to make it 13-3. After both teams traded turnovers, the Hornets drove into Versailles territory before Mason Rus was stopped just inches short on fourth down. The normally potent rusher was held to only 39 yards on 13 carries.
Tiger LaVerde's squad appeared to gain momentum after ending the first half with a goal-line stand, but went three-and-out on its first drive out of intermission before a seven-minute drive culminated in a Jack Osborne touchdown that made it a 17-point game. Outside of Gage Sullivan (113 rushing yards, TD), the Hornet offense struggled to find its footing against a tough Tigers defense, with Lucas Stammen finishing with 10 tackles and Trey Mills earning his seventh sack.
Bey's interception of Ramon Lescano in Versailles territory gave the Tigers a boost, but an electric 29-yard run by Sullivan early in the fourth quarter followed by a defensive three-and-out gave Kirtland new life. However, an attempted halfback pass by Sullivan was intercepted by Michael Osborne, and on the Hornets' next series Jacob Carman picked off yet another Sullivan throw. The four turnovers, coupled with eight penalties for 75 yards, all contributed to an uncharacteristic night for the team that is usually so fundamentally sound.
The mistakes allowed the Tigers to burn away precious time, though Rus was able to find the end zone with only 37 seconds left to make it a one-possession game. Kirtland had one last chance for a miracle, but Sullivan's onside kick bounced right into the waiting hands of Titus Gehret.
Versailles, once a powerful program with 54 consecutive wins of its own in the 1990s, ascended back to the mountaintop with its seventh state title and first since 2003. Kirtland's run of three straight titles (combined D-V and D-VI) ends at three, with their record in the final game falling to 6-4.
You can re-listen to Dave "Dino" DeNatale and Tyler Carey's call of the game in the player below, or tune into 3News' "What's Next" tonight at 11 p.m. for video highlights: