The Raiders used time-consuming drives to overwhelm the Eagles, 31-13.
By DOUG CHAPIN
NILES -- The best defense is a good offense -- make that a good time-consuming offense.
The old football adage was proved again Friday as South Range dominated Warren JFK, 31-13, in a Division V regional semifinal at Bo Rein Memorial Stadium.
The Raiders (12-0) put together three lengthy scoring drives in the first half, limiting Kennedy to three plays and a punt on the Eagles' first four possessions.
South Range faces Bedford Chanel in next Friday's regional final at a site to be determined Sunday.
JFK did not get its initial first down of the game until 29 seconds remained in the first half.
"The kids did a wonderful job, they all played great," South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. "The offensive line played well, the backs ran hard and the defense was outstanding. It was a great team effort."
Filling the void: All this from a team which lost its best running back to injury in the last game of the regular season.
The Raiders adjusted last week in a first-round 28-0 rout of Columbia Station and on Friday looked like they'd been playing for weeks without Jeff Johnston.
Brad Johnson, who stepped into Johnston's fullback position, gained 204 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns.
Brian Novak, who stepped into Johnson's position, added 65 yards on 17 carries.
"Johnson has been around all year, but with three backs in the backfield, we've spread it around," Yeagley said. "But he stepped up tonight and played a super game, as did Brian."
On almost every carry, Johnson and Novak gained additional yardage after initial contact by the defense. The two were stopped for no gain or a loss of yardage only three times in their combined 44 carries.
Numbers tell the story: South Range dominated the statistics, outgaining Kennedy, 418-165. Quarterback James Sanders produced 100 yards through the air on eight completions in 12 attempts.
The Raiders' defense contained Kennedy's 1,400-yard rusher Josh Cayson.
Part of that was a time-consuming offense which kept Cayson off the field, but South Range did a good job of keeping him from getting outside and filling his cutback lanes.
Cayson gained 51 yards on nine carries, but 40 yards came on one play.
A 14-play, 84-yard drive to start the scoring included a roughing the passer penalty against JFK on a third-down incompletion. Johnson finished off the drive, which lasted six minutes, by scoring from 7 yards out.
South Range went 75 yards in eight plays in the second quarter and scored on a well-executed counterplay in which Sanders handed off to Novak who then gave the ball to Jason King on an inside handoff. King scored untouched from 20 yards out.
The Raiders took 4:47 off the clock late in the second quarter with a 10-play drive which resulted in a 30-yard field goal by Jon Styer with 51 seconds left in the half.
The Eagles came out in the second half and put together their own long drive, going 59 yards in nine plays to get back in the game.
Cayson scored on a 6-yard run. The drive included two key completions by Alex Senk, including a 26-yard pickup on fourth-and-4 at the South Range 36.
The Kennedy touchdown came with 7:07 left in the third quarter.
South Range proceeded to take the air out of the Eagles‚ comeback attempt, driving 75 yards on 17 plays to score on a quarterback sneak by Sanders with 10:04 remaining in the game.
It was fitting that Sanders capped the nine-minute drive after he completed four straight third-down completions to three different receivers.
Still in it: Even down 24-7, the Eagles, with a back of Cayson's caliber, still were in the game. The senior showcased his ability on a 40-yard scamper which ended when he fumbled.
A JFK teammate recovered at the South Range 31 and Cayson connected with Chris Williams on the next play for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-13 with 6:37 left.
After recovering Kennedy's onside kick, South Range showed it also could score quickly. Johnson gained nine yards on first down, then broke free from an attempted gang tackle at the line of scrimmage and ran 50 yards for the clinching touchdown with 5:41 left to play.
Yeagley downplayed talk about Kennedy facing a tougher schedule during the season.
"They play a difficult schedule, but you can't always go by the schedule -- that's why you play the games," Yeagley said. "The ICL winner makes the playoffs just about every year and that says a lot for the league.
"We played Crestview in our non-league schedule and they made the playoffs and so did Lowellville," Yeagley said.