There were plenty of bone-jarring hits during Friday night’s Class 8A first-round playoff game between Bartlett and Leyden, but one in particular seemed to light a fire under the visiting Hawks.
The teams were locked in a scoreless battle in the second quarter when Bartlett tight end Chris Kantzavelos took a vicious hit near the sideline while trying to haul in a pass reception. Kantzavelos, a Central Michigan recruit who is better known for his play at defensive end, laid on the field for several minutes before finally walking off on his own power in what served as turning point in his team’s 14-0 victory.
The Eagles were assessed a personal foul penalty for the hit, and Bartlett running back Aaron Everson ran like a man possessed on the next three plays, the last of which went for a 26-yard touchdown run that put the Hawks ahead 7-0 with 3:10 left in the half.
“It was crazy, I was so mad that it felt like I couldn’t breathe at first,” Everson said of his emotions after seeing Kantzavelos leave the game. “I just wanted to score. I was just trying to run hard.”
Kantzavelos returned to action and made an impact on both sides of the ball in the second half, but Leyden quarterback Mike Smith wasn’t so lucky after running head-first into Bartlett linebacker Kevin Kirchhoff in the fourth quarter. Smith was taken off the field in an ambulance, but Eagles coach Tom Cerasani said it was just a precautionary measure and that the senior had movement in his extremities.
The physical, smash-mouth nature of the game reached a pinnacle when Bartlett (7-3) put together a 19-play, 80-yard drive that ate 11:05 off the clock before quarterback Kyle Garcia scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge to make the score 14-0 with 10:12 left in the fourth quarter.
Leyden (7-3) was assessed four penalties for 40 yards during the drive, which kept with a common theme for the night. The Eagles finished the contest with 12 penalties for 120 yards.
“We probably had more penalties tonight than we’ve had all season, so that was disappointing,” Cerasani said. “On the other hand, I think the kids’ effort was tremendous. Give Bartlett credit. They are a good, tough football team.”
Everson finished with 114 yards on 29 carries for the Hawks, who advance to play the winner of Saturday’s game between Loyola and Evanston. Mickey Gulo had 61 rushing yards on nine carries and Andrew Garcia added seven catches for 48 yards for the Eagles.
Leyden had two trips into the red zone in the first half, but the first was stymied by penalties and the second ended in a missed field goal. The Eagles finished with a 198-127 advantage in total yardage, but they could muster only 47 yards in the second half as Bartlett posted its second shutout of the season.
“Our coaches told us one of the hardest things to do is get a shutout in the playoffs,” Kantzavelos said. “We showed how good we are and how good we practice.”
BARTLETT 14, LEYDEN 0
Bartlett 0 7 0 7 – 14
Leyden 0 0 0 0 – 0
B — Everson 26 run (Hrbacek kick), 3:10
B — Garcia 1 run (Hrbacek kick), 10:12
Team Statistics B L
First downs 12 10
Comp.-att.-int. 1-2-0 13-19-0
Passing yards 10 120
Rush att.-yards 41-117 28-78
Total yards 127 198
Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-1
Penalties-yards 5-35 12-120
Bartlett – Everson 29-114, Kirchhoff 3-3, Coley 1-3, Piedra 3-0, Bailey 1-0, Garcia 4-(-3).
Leyden – Gulo 9-61, Smith 10-33, Whigham 6-4, Pajor 3-(-18).
Bartlett – Garcia 1-2-0 10.
Leyden – Smith 7-10-0 66, Pajor 6-9-0 54.
Bartlett – Kantzavelos 1-10.
Leyden – Garcia 7-48, Rhoades 2-44, Gulo 2-16, Martinez 1-13, Vernola 1-(-1).