BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
FINDLAY — After Garrett Cornell hurt his knee in Port Clinton’s victory over Perkins in a Division IV regional semifinals, it was unclear what kind of shape he’d be in for the Redskins’ battle with Van Wert, the reigning Division IV state champions.
After missing most of practice this week, Cornell, healthy enough to play, was the best player on the field, leading Port Clinton to a 49-21 win over the Cougars in the regional finals and giving the ‘Skins their first-ever regional championship.
He rushed 30 times for 206 yards and two touchdowns, running behind an offensive line that opened big holes for him throughout the season.
“They played their butts off,” Cornell said of the offensive line. “They were giving me holes I could drive a truck through, and not only that, but the receivers on the perimeter were also blocking like crazy all night.
“Throughout the week we knew Van Wert had a good team and that we would come in as the underdogs. We took what they gave us and executed and came out with the win.”
The line consists of three players that are at least 280 pounds or more.
Center Dylan Snyder leads the pack and is flanked by guards Samari Smith and Hunter Shell and tackles Gabe Scott and Ethan Ranzenberger.
And the Port Clinton defensive line sparkled, too.
In a 4-2-5 alignment there are five players, all of whom play both ways, regularly see time on the line. There’s Shell, Smith, Snyder, Ranzenberger and Adam Thorbahn, who also plays tight end. They’ve played well all season long, setting the foundation for a defense that has allowed more than 21 points just once.
They’ve also opened things up for the dynamic Cornell, who plays linebacker, where he has wreaked havoc throughout the season.
“The defensive line getting pressure against Van Wert meant everything,” said Cornell. “They kept their quarterback contained pretty much all night, which made the linebackers’ and secondary’s jobs easier, whether that be freeing us up to make tackles or forcing a tough pass.”