The Knights' defense sacked the Warrior quarterback nine times.
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AKRON -- Field position, created by turnovers, helped Akron Hoban defeat West Branch 27-0 in a Division III, Region 9 quarterfinal Friday at Dowed Field.
The Knights (10-1) turned two first-quarter interceptions into touchdowns and controlled the Warriors (8-3) offense throughout the game.
West Branch senior running back Tom Hinton was the lone threat, finishing with 147 yards on 25 carries. He finished the season as the school record holder with 1,462 yards.
"Hinton ran like a wild man," said West Branch coach Jim Laut. "Boy is he tough. He hurt his ankle early and he just kept running."
Double interceptions: But, an interception by Hoban's nickel back, junior Erin McGough, was returned 38 yards for the game's first points with 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
On the Warriors' very next offensive play, the Knights' David Robinson picked off a Nathan Greenawalt pass, setting up a touchdown throw from Tom Sitko to Jason Laughlin with 43 seconds remaining in the first period.
"Those two interceptions forced them to rethink when they were going to throw the football," said Hoban coach Ralph Orsini. "They didn't put it up as much as they wanted to because they didn't want that third turnover. They played kind of conservative after that."
Hoban took a 20-0 lead in the third quarter on an eight-play, 30-yard drive, set up by Anthony Fanelli's 63-yard kickoff return.
"Once we got that one I felt real good," said Orsini. "We were in good shape."
The Knights' final score was a 21-yard run by freshman Tyrell Sutton with 3:18 remaining in the game.
Despite the lopsided final score, the game's statistics bore out the defensive struggle that was expected. The Knights gained 162 yards on 36 plays; West Branch had 124 yards on 48 plays.
"They were awfully physical for us," said Laut. "We knew their defense could be a real chore for us."
The difference was the Warriors' three turnovers.
"They were rushing our quarterback," said Laut. "They were pressuring him, and they were all over our receivers. And where do you throw the ball?"
The Knights' defense was outstanding, sacking Greenawalt nine times for minus 57 yards.
Seniors Tom Smith and Cory Brunson had two sacks apiece and two tackles for loss each.
"They were stunting guys, 240-pounders, and they're just a load," said Laut. "Our guys fought hard; I don't know what [more] we can ask of them."
West Branch's defense also played well, limiting Sutton, a 1,000-yard rusher in eight games played, to 97 yards on 21 carries.
"We contained him very well until the last series," said Laut of the defense on Sutton. "And I'm sure we had somebody there, he just slipped off of them."
Hoban will play Mentor Lake Catholic in a regional semifinal next Friday.