HUDSON: Chalk one up for the defense.
In a battle of two high-powered offenses, Aurora made the big plays on the other side of the ball to move on in the state playoffs Friday night at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Zach Smierciak’s 75-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter put the Greenmen ahead to stay and Aurora added another touchdown following a takeaway late in the game for a 27-13 victory over Kent Roosevelt in a Division II, Region 5 semifinal.
Aurora (11-1) will face Chardon next Friday at a site to be determined.
The teams battled on even terms throughout an entertaining first half, which ended in a 13-13 tie. But the Greenmen were able to limit Roosevelt’s standout quarterback Tra’Von Chapman after that.
“I thought our kids played a really good first half,” said Roosevelt coach John Nemec. “They’re a real powerful team and our kids stayed with them, hung in there. In the second half, it got away from us a little bit. We made a couple mistakes, and it’s really costly against a team like Aurora. They’re a good team, they’re well-coached and play, good solid football.”
Following an Aurora punt, Roosevelt (10-2) took over on its own 35 early in the second half.
On the second play, Smierciak intercepted a Chapman pass on the 25, headed for the left sideline and outran Rough Riders the rest of the way, eluding a would-be tackler near the goal line. Joey Melchiori’s extra point made it 20-13 with 8:36 left in the third quarter.
“That felt good,” Smierciak said. “I just read his eyes and got underneath the receiver and once I made it, I figured I’d cut back and run my heart out and got great lead blocking, so it was great. Great team effort tonight.”
Both teams had promising drives fall short after that.
Chapman had an apparent first-down run at the Aurora 23, but a Frank Savilio hit resulted in a fumble recovered by Jake McVay at the 23 with 3:07 left in the game.
On the next play, senior Zack Quinn took a handoff and burst up the middle, not stopping until he reached the end zone 77 yards away and the Greenmen had a 27-13 lead.
A last-ditch possession by Roosevelt ended when it was stopped on downs at its own 26. The Greenmen then ran out the clock.
“Up front we knew we were going to block our hearts out,” said Quinn of his long run. “McVay said to me ‘do you want this’ and I said yes, and I took it to the house.”
McVay was a two-way standout.
A senior, McVay scored on a 51-yard run to open the scoring in the first quarter, and took a screen pass from George Bollas 31 yards for another touchdown to make it 13-10 with 1:57 to go in the half.
Roosevelt’s Jose Rocha added a tying 34-yard goal with 16 second left in the quarter.
He earlier kicked a 43-yarder.
Chapman connected with favorite target Trei Thomas on a 16-yard scoring pass for Roosevelt’s first touchdown.
It was Chapman’s 33rd touchdown pass of the season and the 18th to Thomas.
“Tonight’s game was about our defense,” Aurora coach Bob Mihalik said. “All week we heard Tra’Von Chapman, and rightly so. I think our defense played with a chip on our shoulder and hats off to coach [Brian] Wervey, our defensive coordinator who put a heck of plan together.
“You hold Tra’Von Chapman to one touchdown, I think you’ve done a heck of a job.”
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