BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
CLEVELAND — Port Clinton senior Cooper Stine set a school record for single-game rushing mark with 301 yards on the ground, but it was his play on defense that might have been the most important in a 49-40 victory over host Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph.
Stine sacked VASJ quarterback Kevin Eiseman on a two-point conversion with 8:06 remaining in the fourth quarter to help Port Clinton (2-3) cling to a 42-40 lead.
On the Redskins’ ensuing drive, Stine rushed for 38 yards on the first play before Port Clinton faced a fourth-and-10 at the Vikings 23-yard line. Colton Klima connected with Connor Gillum for an 18-yard completion, and Garrett Cornell scored his touchdown from three yards out two plays later with 4:31 left to close out the scoring before the Redskin defense held off VASJ (3-2).
It was the epitome of a stark contrast in styles as Port Clinton rushed for 332 yards and VASJ threw for 464 yards. Overall, the Vikings outgained the Redskins in total yards, 508-427. Port Clinton was 7-of-14 on third downs and 4-of-5 on fourth downs.
“I think the reason we won is because they ran for 44 yards. They also threw for 460 passing yards, which is absolutely unacceptable,” said Port Clinton coach Beau Carmon. “The reason we won is because we were a little more consistent controlling the clock and scoring at will on the ground. They couldn’t do that, and they did need to rely on big plays more than we did. I think we controlled the line of scrimmage better. Our defense got the stops when it needed to, and all that matters is we got the win.”
“I thought both teams fought hard, and it was a tremendous game. We’re very fortunate to have come away with a win. I think our kids earned that victory through the week and the offseason. That game was won with the amount of work put in during the offseason, in the weight room.”
The Redskins’ Zach Weldon got the scoring started with an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and Hunter Mominee, who had seven PATs, kicked the extra point to make it 7-0. The Vikings answered with a 51-yard pass from Kevin Eiseman to Cameron Williams to tie the score, but the Redskins responded with three touchdowns to push the lead to 28-7.
Stine scored on a 13-yard run to give Port Clinton the lead for good at 14-7, Klima ran in a touchdown from one yard out, and Cornell returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown.
Stine set a school record with 301 rushing yards on 32 carries, breaking his record of 252 yards he set last year.
“What’s incredible is those runs were between the tackles, save for a few. Those yards came before and after contact — (Stine is) getting hit, but he’s still running the football. He broke off a few, but ultimately, averaging 10 yards per run is about right.”
“He ran hard, he ran tough, and I think probably the most impressive part is the 32 carries. That’s a lot of carries for a running back, let alone someone who plays both ways, (and) then he comes through with a sack on their two-point conversion to keep the two-point lead. It speaks volumes and shows what he means to the program.”
Carmon credited his offensive line — Caden Chapman and Michael Recker (tackles); Logan Faulkner and Gabe Scott (guards); and center Dylan Snider — for their efforts in opening holes for Stine.
“There’s no question the line is getting better. We told our kids that our sophomores can’t keep playing like sophomores. We know our upperclassmen are playing well, but we need more out of our underclassmen. The mistakes have to be limited,” said Carmon. “For the most part, they stepped up to the challenge on Saturday. We start two sophomores on the line, and they blocked extremely well. They played physical, and there were very few, if any, missed assignments. It doesn’t hurt having Logan Faulkner back, too. He’s a wrecking ball and that creates depth on the offensive and defensive lines. They are starting to play as one unit.”
With two consecutive wins, Port Clinton has worked its way up the ranks of the Div. IV, Region 14 standings. The ‘Skins are currently 15th with 4.60 points, just over two points behind Huron (6.65), which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.
This Friday, Port Clinton hosts Edison (3-2). The Chargers are coming off a 35-8 victory over Toledo Woodward.
“Edison is better than they were last year. We saw them in person against Woodward. They are extremely physical. They look bigger than they have in recent years,” said Carmon. “What drives Edison is the fact that their wrestling program is so good. They are tough kids, they’re tough in all the sports they play, and it comes to a head during the football season.
“In football, that’s all it comes down to (is the physicality). We only have one week to prepare for (the triple option). Defensively, I think they’re very, very good. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re a good football team. They’re in the mix to be a contender (in the division).”