By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
The Riverside gridders overcame a lot of adversity this season. However, an early deficit against the Brecksville-Broadview Height Bees was too much adversity for them to overcome.
As a result, the second-seeded Bees gained a 53-35 decision in Friday’s Division II regional quarterfinal.
Host Brecksville-Broadview Heights (10-1) moves on to face sixth-seeded Madison next Friday in a regional semifinal matchup, the site of which is yet to be determined.
“This team’s resilient,” Riverside coach Dave Bors said. “You saw it tonight in the second half. It just epitomized what this team is about. We could have easily folded when we went down three touchdowns. We came fighting back.
“(Brecksville) has only given up 15 points once all season. That was Division I Hudson, a playoff team, in double overtime. We put up 35 while still giving up two defensive scores. So I’m extremely proud of our guys. No one gave us a chance tonight, and we fought. We just didn’t execute, and give Brecksville a boatload of credit, and coach (Jason) Black over there.”
Senior quarterback Tim Tupa ran for 187 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 219 more yards. Five passes went to his sophomore brother Tyler, for 93 yards and another score.
“(Tim Tupa) is a very special player,” Bors said. “You’ve got a (defender) that’s six inches away, and he’s going for 45 yards.
“That’s a special player. That’s one of those guys who you’ll be seeing playing on Saturday, and he just made more plays than we did tonight.”
Seventh-seeded Riverside (7-4) countered with a 134-yard, four-TD night from running back Marcus Jones and 259 passing yards from Maxx Brubaker. The Beavers piled up 452 yards and gained 29 first downs, but committed the game’s only three turnovers, two of which the Bees returned for touchdowns.
The Bees got on the board first when Tim Tupa took the ball in himself from the 1-yard line. Tupa had a 31-yard
run and a 28-yard pass to Tyler to set up the TD.
The Tupas are the sons of Tom Tupa, who played for Ohio State and the Cleveland Browns.
The Beavers responded by moving the ball 85 yards to the Brecksville 2, but gave it up on downs there when a fourth-down pass by Brubaker fell incomplete in the back left corner of the end zone. The Bees then took it 98 yards, with Tim Tupa again taking it in from the one, this time on fourth down.
Tupa got in around the left side after fielding a bad shotgun snap that he caught after it bounced off his hands. He had thrown for 15 yards to Tyler Tupa on the previous play.
The Bees extended it to 21-0 on the next play from scrimmage when Dan Shirilla picked off a pass and returned it 27 yards to paydirt.
Riverside got its offense in gear at that point, but the defense couldn’t hold Brecksville. The Beavers converted marches of 77 and 68 yards, with Jones running it in from 24 and 21 yards, but the Bees answered both times with similar drives. Tim Tupa hooked up with Tyler Tupa for a 14-yard score to finish the first one, and Tim ran it in from six yards to complete a 27-point second quarter and provide a 34-14 halftime advantage.
The Beavers had an opportunity when Adam Horvat recovered his own onside kick to start the second half.
They got as far as the Brecksville 21 before an 11-yard loss on a bad shotgun snap helped to thwart the threat.
Tim Tupa ripped off a 68-yard TD run around the right side on the next play. Moments later, Troy Lang returned a fumble 57 yards to make it 46-14. The ball came loose when the snap hit the player in motion, who was crossing in front of Brubaker.
“We knew coming in that we couldn’t give them any extra opportunities,” Bors said. “We didn’t have one takeaway on defense, and they had three, and two of them were scores.”
Riverside didn’t quit, however, and bounced back with two touchdowns on a 13-yard pass from Brubaker to Drew Tornow and a one-yard run by Jones. It converted the first of two two-point conversions, leaving the score at 46-28.
The Beavers stopped the Bees on the next possession, but Nick Shirilla took it away with a pickoff on the next play. Carlo Milano (15 carries for 121 yards) then set up his own 2-yard scoring run with one of 47.
Jones’ 5-yard run cut it to 53-35, but Brecksville was able to run out the final 4:20.
“Our kids battled (this season),” Bors said. “We fought injuries, adversities, right from the very beginning. This team’s resilient.”
Joe McDonald caught seven passes for 123 yards for the Beavers.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.