West Geauga senior Nick Cuthbert was a one-man wrecking crew on Beachwood’s season Saturday.
First, he ran a kick back 92-yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, putting the Wolverines up 14-12. He then assisted in blocking a punt in the fourth quarter and ran it back 23 yards to put West Geauga up 28-18 and the Wolverines held on for a 28-25 victory at Chagrin Falls High School. The game was moved from Beachwood High School due to poor field conditions. The loss eliminated any chance the Bison would earn a bid to the Division IV playoffs.
“We practiced special teams over and over,” Beachwood coach Ryan Williams said. “Apparently it wasn’t good enough today. It’s just disappointing with the amount of times we practice special teams going all the way back to spring. Kids are kids, these are 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Beachwood finishes over .500 at 6-4 for the second time in three years. Beachwood’s senior class finishes with a three-year record of 17-13, but no playoff appearances.
“We had a good season, but wanted a win today to get to the playoffs,” senior running back Ari Sobel said. “I don’t think this season was as good as we should have been. It’s not awful, but we were 6-1 and we thought 6-4 was a devastation. We did alright, but we didn’t live up to our expectations.”
Beachwood’s promising first drive ended with senior quarterback Alex Hohl throwing an interception to Nolan Widing who ran back 90-yards. It would have been a touchdown, but the run was called back because of an illegal block. West Geauga took over on Beachwood’s 49-yard line and six-plays later Cuthbert capped the drive with a 29-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Zak Kucera.
Beachwood answered with a steady dose of Sobel, running the ball four of Beachwood’s next seven plays capped with a 4-yard score. The Bison missed the extra point thanks to a bad snap and trailed 7-6.
Beachwood wound up chasing that extra point all game. Their next drive Sobel took the Bison down to West Geauga’s 1-yard line on four consecutive runs combining for 37 yards and Hohl snuck it in for the touchdown. Beachwood elected to go for two and failed and moments Cuthbert put the Wolverines back on top with his kick return.
The Bison went up 18-14 on their last drive of the half thanks to a 70-yard touchdown catch by senior tight end David Shapiro on a bootleg from Hohl. Again Beachwood went for two and missed, but led 18-14 going into the break.
Right out of halftime Sobel burned the Wolverines for a 68-yard run, he finished the game with 18 carries for 191 yards and a touchdown.
“I saw a huge hole and then Jacob Sabroff blocking, the whole line did amazing today,” Sobel said. “I should have finished off the run, but I got caught from behind.”
Despite the big gain, two plays later a holding flag killed the drive and the Bison turned the ball over on downs.
With 6:05 left in the third, West Geauga rattled off an 11-play, 72-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Kucera giving the Wolverines a 21-18 lead and milking 4:01 off the clock.
Both offenses stalled for the next 12 minutes until Beachwood had their punt blocked with 6:30 the game and Cuthbert ran it in for his third touchdown. The Bison answered on their next drive, even after Hohl left for the sidelines after being shaken up on a hard hit. Backup quarterback Corey Jones came in and accounted for 80 yards — 40 passing and 40 rushing — capping it with a 5-yard score.
Beachwood utilized their timeouts and defense to get the ball back with 1:55 left, stopping the Wolverines on fourth down. However, Hohl threw an interception the very next play and West Geauga ran out the clock.
“We played hard the entire game,” Williams said. “We just didn’t do enough.”
Hohl finished 8-of-19 passing for 182 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“Everybody’s hearts were in it,” Hohl said. “We played bad on special teams today and I threw two interceptions today. I usually don’t do that. We were leading in the first half and we didn’t finish. That’s on us. Going 6-4 is a disappointment for us.”
Beachwood’s playoff fate came down to winning one of their four big games against Orange, Kirtland, Cuyahoga Heights and West Geauga — all would have given the Bison a substantial boost in the Region 13 computer rankings.
While Kirtland defeated the Bison 33-0, Orange and Cuyahoga Heights outscored the Bison by a combined 21-0 in the fourth quarter to come away with narrow victories. Beachwood led Orange 17-14 at half, but Orange scored 14 unanswered in the fourth for a 28-17 victory. Last week against Cuyahoga Heights the Bison tied up the game in the third, but Cuyahoga Heights took a 21-14 lead in the fourth and held on for the win.
“It just came down to winning the big game,” Williams said. “Other than the Kirtland game we were winning every one of them and we just didn’t hang on. We couldn’t put them away and have to develop a killer instinct going into the future.”