Chardon Defense leads the way again

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The Hilltoppers showed Mayfield just how good their defense is in their 31-14 Western Reserve Conference win last week.

The Hilltoppers showed Mayfield just how good their defense is in their 31-14 Western Reserve Conference win last week.

On return night, Chardon’s defense shone once again, as struggles continued on the attacking side of the ball.

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be offensively,” Chardon head coach Mitch Hewitt said. “We’re not winning enough collisions, and that’s what the game is all about.

“We’re young, and at some point I have to stop saying that.”

The Wildcats (3-2, 0-1 WRC), a side struggling with injuries, came out ready to strike. Their physicality paid off on the defense side as, midway through the first quarter, a hit on Chardon quarterback Alex Henry knocked the ball down. Junior safety Anthony Howard picked him up and took him 43 yards from home for the game’s first score.

With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, senior safety Trey Liebhardt put the Toppers (4-1, 1-1 WRC) on the board when he saw senior Wildcat quarterback Aiden Arth staring at his receiver , get in front of the target, then return the ball 30 yards for a touchdown.

Liebhardt has had an interception in four of the Toppers’ five games this year. The pick was Liebhardt’s fifth of the season. It was also his second pick of the year six.

“It was a huge change in momentum,” said senior defensive lineman Cooper Felger, crowned return king before the game.

Arth, who started in place of injured quarterback Rocco Monastero, was nearly picked several more times during the game by secondary peddler Chardon. In many cases, the bad throws were due to pressure from senior defensive linemen Alex Kisley and Felger.

Junior linebacker Mario Tolo felt defensive line play opened up holes for linebackers and helped them and the secondary make impact plays.

After last week’s loss to Riverside, the defense has regrouped and refocused on the essentials.

“We weren’t happy with the way we played last week, and we knew what we had to do,” Felger said of the defensive performance. “We came out hard and ran for the ball.”

“We focused on the physical, staying violent,” Tolo said, “go wherever the ball goes and gang tackles.”

The first team to register an offensive touchdown was Chardon, who got on the board with less than five minutes left before halftime.

Henry atoned for his fumble with a 14-yard touchdown run to give the Hilltoppers a 14-7 advantage. The score was set by a 37-yard run around the left side at fourth and one by senior linebacker Heath Fetchik, who has seen action on the offensive side in the past two games.

“We’re at a point in our season right now where we’re relying on these guys to play both ways,” Hewitt said of Liebhardt and Fetchik. “In pre-season, that was not our goal. It was the hand that was dealt to us, and we are going to ride these guys until others step in.

On the ensuing Wildcat possession, the Toppers forced a three-and-out and won the ball deep inside their territory. The attack got to work and, for the second consecutive practice, had some success in the battle of the trenches, advancing the ball towards the Mayfield 6.

With eight seconds left before halftime, Joseph Evans made a 23-yard field goal to increase Chardon’s lead to 17-7.

A touchdown pass late in Arth’s third quarter to Wildcats senior running back Anthony Santoro cut the deficit to 17-14 and put the pressure on the Hilltoppers.

With nine minutes to play, Henry broke up a 43-yard touchdown run to give his team some breathing room at 24-10.

For the remainder of the fourth quarter, both defenses held the offenses in check.

The Toppers’ defense put the exclamation mark on the game late in the fourth, when sophomore Caleb Hewitt stepped forward past a pass from Arth and ran 53 yards down Chardon’s sideline. , falling two yards from a pick six as he was stumbled at the Mayfield 2.

Fetchik capped the scoring with a one-yard touchdown run.

Although he allowed Chardon to gain 281 total offensive yards, with 198 rushing and 83 through the air, Mayfield’s defense controlled the line and didn’t let Chardon get the upper hand.

“We’re a throwing team and we can’t take advantage,” coach Hewitt said. “Until we can take advantage, we’re really one dimensional. It’s really frustrating. These staff know what they’re doing and they will figure it out.

Chardon’s offensive struggles put more emphasis on defense to hold the opposition in check.

“We understand the defense needs to step up a bit more,” Felger said. “It’s not pressure, but we just know what we have to do.”

Chardon’s ground game was paced by Henry, who rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed four of six passes for 83 yards. Fetchik rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown, and had two passes for 62 yards.

Mayfield had 175 total yards on offense — 82 rushing and 93 passing — while earning six first downs.

Next up for Chardon is rival Kenston.

“Throw records and all that other good stuff,” Hewitt said. “It’s going to be a war. We respect them a lot and they are in our area. It’s a playoff team. »

“It’s a huge rivalry for us,” Felger added, “and we have to step up and work hard and come and play on Friday.”

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