By Bill Bray
FREMONT- For the second straight season Chad Long’s Fremont Ross Little Giants have advanced to the second round of the OHSAA playoffs in Division II Region 6 with a 27-17 victory over The North Royalton Bears.
After two straight losses to end the season, the Little Giants had hopes of turning things around as they were given a reawakening by making the playoff rounds.
Ross started the contest by answering critics of their offensive performances the last two weeks with a Kaden Holmes touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage covering 54 yards just two minutes into the contest. Holmes, Fremont Ross’ Mr. Everything, found a gap and sprinted down the western sideline to pay dirt for the Giants.
North Royalton answered back with a pair of touchdowns one at the 10:33 mark of the second quarter and the other with just six ticks left on the clock. The Giants found themselves down 14-7 at the break.
The team was challenged at the half. “We are guaranteed one more half together,” coach Chad Long told his forces. “I, and I hope you don’t want it to end tonight.”
For several weeks now, Long has talked about his team just not being able to finish a game. Well, it appears it has come at just the right time as the Giants (8-3) win their second playoff game in two season to advance to a second-round game against Avon High School who sits at 9-2 after beating Toledo St. Francis 63-28.
The second half was really a combination of Holmes’ passing and a staunch defense who gave up only three second half points. Interceptions by Kalijah Alejandro and Anthony Vann highlighted the defensive performance for Ross along with the front-line play of London Johnson and Ethan Green and company.
Holmes scored the tying touchdown with 10:39 left in the second half as the Giants, as they did in the first half, scored on their very first possession.
North Royalton came back and with :42 left in the third period; Nick Colabianchi nailed a 34-yard field goal to give the Bears their second lead at 17-14.
Enter Elijah Simms, the standout sophomore for Ross who has had some spectacular games as of late, caught a 23-yard strike from Holmes with 10:07 remaining in the game to put Ross back on top 21-17.
Enter Anthony Vann. The swift junior, not playing his best ball the last few weeks, hauled in an interception on defense then with 7:55 left in the game put the icing on the Little Giants’ cake with a 12-yard Holmes pass reception. Making the final score Fremont Ross 27, North Royalton 17. “This was Anthony’s explode out game,” Long said. “We know it is there, he just has to have faith and believe. So, I am proud of him.” Long added, “I just really believe in our kids, and I think we can make a really good run.” Long, of course, had to mention his “Mr. Everything”. “It all starts with Kaden Holmes, Long said. “There is so much pressure put on that kid and he’s only a junior. He accepts it and lives by it, and we are fortunate enough to have a Kaden Holmes.”
“We got to see our offense back,” Long referring to the last two dismal offensive display weeks. But as was mentioned, it was the performance of the defense in the second half that was the difference maker for the Little Giants. “North Royalton is a pretty dangerous team; they have some hard running backs as well as their quarterback. But our guys won the line of scrimmage a lot tonight, Long continued. “Ray Long our defensive coordinator made some adjustments at half time from what we could see they were doing the first half. They are not a passing team. They are a run team first and we wanted them to be in passing scenarios and that is exactly what happened.” When Long was asked what the biggest surprise during the game was, he said, simply “Nothing.” “I believe in our kids; I believe in our coaches, and I believe in our team.”
Statistically, North Royalton possessed the ball nearly 30 of the 48 minutes and ran 73 plays as compared to Fremont’s 47. Kaden Holmes once again threw for over 200 yards hitting on 14 of 21 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns. Holmes added 118 yards on just 11 rushes and scoring twice with his feet as well. Sophomore Elijah Simms stole the show in receiving as he caught four passes for 101 yards and a score. Vann added 68 yards on four catches with a touchdown. Simms was the defensive stand out to be sure as he had seven tackles, four solo tackles, six assists, .5 sack and one tackle for a loss.