Thursday when 3-1 Chagrin Falls traveled to take on 4-0 Pepper Pike
Orange. The visitng Tigers struck early and often to tame the
previously unbeaten Lions, 41-13. Chagrin Falls seized momentum from the opening kickoff and carried it
to a 21-0 first quarter lead behind a stingy defense and the arm of
senior quarterback Brett Axner.
Chagrin Falls seized momentum from the opening kickoff and carried it to a 21-0 first quarter lead behind a stingy defense and the arm of senior quarterback Brett Axner.
“We got off to a good start tonight,” Tiger head coach Mark Iammarino said. “We had great preparation, the kids knew it was a big game with them (Orange) being 4-0. And also knowing we had a short week, they did the work and got prepared.”
The Tigers returned the opening kickoff to Orange’s 45-yard line. Four plays later on a fourth down and six play, Axner connected with Fritz Stueber for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Axner, who is less then a year removed from major knee surgery, finished the night 11-for-14 passing for 206 yards and the two touchdown tosses. Iammarino couldn’t help but be pleased with the progress his quarterback has made.
“Brett is playing really well so far this year; I’m really proud of him,” Iammarino raved. “He made some very nice throws. It’s good to see how well he was moving around and eluding guys. He’s worked really hard to get back.”
In the first quarter, the field seemed slanted in the Tigers favor. Chagrin ran three offensive series with an average starting field position of Orange’s 49. All three drives ended in touchdowns. Zach Toedtman ran one in from three yards out, and Axner threw his second TD, a 5-yard strike to Chase Stelzer.
The great field position was a welcome change from previous games for Iammarino.
“It’s funny, the first two games this year it seemed we always were playing in our own end, and one of those games we won 7-6 the other we lost,” Iammarino said. “(Field Position) makes a difference. It helps you with momentum, and helps with calls you can make as a coach.”
The Tiger offense stalled in the second quarter, but the defense stayed strong maintaining the shutout. Orange recovered two Tiger fumbles in the quarter, but each time, Chagrin’s defense held the Lions to a turnover on downs.
“When we score early, it brings energy to our defense,” Axner said. “They get all fired up and pumped up and go out and make plays. The defense played great tonight.”
With the score still 21-0 nearing halftime, Orange was beginning to swing momentum and threatening to cut into the lead. However, on a fourth down play, a desperation toss turned into disaster for the Lions. Stelzer intercepted a Nick Walker pass and returned it 91 yards, untouched up the sidelines, stretching the lead to 28-0 with just two seconds to go before halftime.
Coming out in the second half, it was more of the same for the Tigers. On Orange’s first series, Dan Lalich recovered a fumble for Chagrin on the Lions 28. That set up Toedtman’s second score of the night, this time a one yard plunge. Ryan Tackacs also added a touchdown run to finish out the Tiger scoring.
Orange kept fighting until the final gun. Chris Bryant scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. One came on a 14 yard pass from Walker, the other on a 10 yard run.
Both teams now stand 4-1, although Chagrin Falls moves to 2-0 in the Chagrin Division of the Chagrin Valley Conference. Orange drops to 1-1 the CVC.