News-Herald Senior Bowl: Defense rises to the occasion as White beats Blue, 23-20

·7 min read

Jun. 17—In a game that featured some record-breaking offensive performances, the 2022 News-Herald Senior Bowl came down to defense.

Joey DiLalla (West Geauga) kicked a field goal with 19 seconds remaining to lift the White team to a 23-20 win at Mayfield Wildcat Stadium. Seconds later, Jayden Searcy (South) stripped Blue quarterback C.J. Yarboro (Benedictine) of the ball and recovered it to clinch the victory.

White's game-winning field goal was set up by an interception by Gage Sullivan (Kirtland), and the White squad also got a pick-six from Carson Gebeau (Kenston) earlier in the game.

PHOTOS: News-Herald Senior Bowl, June 17, 2022

When the game ended, the defense rested — for the first time all night.

BALLGAME! @southathletics' Jayden Searcy strip-sacks the QB, and team White led by @kirtlandFB's Rossi Santo wins the 2022 @NHPreps Senior Bowl 23-20!

Congrats to all the seniors on outstanding high school careers!

— Kirtland Hornet Stat Crew (@hornetstatcrew) June 18, 2022

"We came out a little shaky, giving up a 70-yard bomb early," said White coach Rossi Santo, an assistant at Kirtland. "But besides that and a quick-slant we gave up for a score, I thought our defense was lights out the whole game."

It looked like the game was headed to overtime with the score deadlocked at 20-all with less than a minute remaining. But Kirtland's Mason Rus leapt in the air to convert a fourth-and-eight to put the White team in field goal position.


— Kirtland Hornet Stat Crew (@hornetstatcrew) June 18, 2022

White was likely in field goal range anyway, with big-legged DiLalla waiting in the wings. But a few more running plays got the team a little closer.

IT'S GOOD! @WestGFootball's Joey DiLalla splits the uprights & the White team leads 23-20!

— Kirtland Hornet Stat Crew (@hornetstatcrew) June 18, 2022

That meant a chip shot for DiLalla, a Mount Union signee who is ranked four stars by Kohl's kicking camp.

"I didn't even look up," he said of the pre-snap regimen. "I waited (until I kicked it) and then looked up.

"I've been waiting to do that for four years," he said. "I've kicked extra points (for a game-winner), but never a field goal-winner."

Still, Blue had 19 seconds and a big-legged kicker of its own in Lake Catholic's Jake Hite. But Searcy came off the edge, stripped Yarboro and recovered it to end the game.

"I knew if we got another big play, that'd be the game," Searcy said. "I did my best to get to the quarterback and end the game. It felt good. If that's my last play, it's a good way to go out."

Said Yarboro, "It happens. We could have lived to see another play. We didn't come out with the victory, but we all had fun and that's what matters."

Team Blue strikes first with a @NHPreps Senior Bowl record-long 79 yard touchdown to go up 6-0.

Benedictine's CeeJay Yarboro hits his high school teammate Brandon Boyd for the score. @BeneBengalsFB

— Kirtland Hornet Stat Crew (@hornetstatcrew) June 17, 2022

Yarboro, a Walsh signee, was nails all night. He threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns, including a 79-yard go-route to Benedictine teammate Brandon Boyd on the first drive of the game. That connection set a News-Herald record for the longest pass play in game history.

"We had a lot of chemistry, he and I, coming into this game," Boyd said.

CeeJay Yarboro & Brandon Boyd connect for their second score of the opening quarter to make it 13-0. @BeneBengalsFB

— Kirtland Hornet Stat Crew (@hornetstatcrew) June 17, 2022

The two also hooked up a few drives later on a 19-yard slant to make it a 13-0 game.

But White dug in and went on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by Danny Stewart (West Geauga) plowing in from the 3. It was a 14-13 White lead at the half thanks to a Mason Rus four-yard run.

White completed a 20-0 run when Gebeau stepped in front of a Yarboro pass and went 74 yards to the house.

74-yard pick six by @Bomber_Football's Carson Gebeau! @kirtlandFB coach Rossi Santo's team now leads 20-13.

— Kirtland Hornet Stat Crew (@hornetstatcrew) June 17, 2022

"I was trailing the receiver the whole way," Gebeau said. "I saw the pressure. When he let it go, I knew if I caught it, it was six."

Late in the third, Blue evened the score at 20-20 when Mikey Norwood (Mentor) took a pass from Yarboro 54 yards for the touchdown.

Team Blue responds as @BeneBengalsFB QB CeeJay Yarboro throws his third TD pass of the game, this time to @MentorRedline WR Mikey Norwood.

We're all tied up at 20 in this action-packed @NHPreps Senior Bowl!

— Kirtland Hornet Stat Crew (@hornetstatcrew) June 17, 2022

Blue had the ball near midfield with less than three minutes left when Sullivan jumped a curl route for the interception to set up the DiLalla field goal.

Blue outgained White, 304-286. Yarboro not only had 240 passing yards, but added 39 rushing yards. Zach Czako (Cardinal) ran for 14 and Josiah Cooper (Fairport) ran for 10.

Defensively, Derell Bedingfield (Benedictine) had eight stops, Jahi Hairston (Brush) had seven and both Czako and Chase Simak (Cardinal) had six.

White's passing as led by Stewart's 66 yards and 44 from Anthony Gallo of North. Rus ran for 60 and Dom Tromba (Riverside) ran for 39.

Defensively, White got a team-leading seven stops from Ramon Lescano (Kirtland) and six from Rus. Lucas Sadler (West Geauga) had five tackles and was disruptive all night in the Blue backfield.

Blue coach Mick Mohner praised his team on both sides of the ball, calling Yarboro "lights out" as a quarterback. He said "when they passed on us, we were able to lock them down. I thought we played really well defensively."

Mohner, the head coach at Harvey, enjoyed the week of Senior Bowl.

"It speaks volumes to the talent we have in Northeastern Ohio, how many good players there are to put two teams together that really battled it out tonight," he said.

"Unfortunately one team had to lose and we we were on the losing end. But it's been a great week and it's been a lot of fun hanging out with these young men. I can't wait to see what they do at the next stages of their lives."

Santo agreed in regard to his Blue team.

"It was fun. The kids had a blast and our coaches did a really nice job," he said. "The kids were awesome. It was a cool experience."

2022 News-Herald Senior Bowl

White 23, Blue 20


First downs 13 13

Rushing yards 64 159

Passing yards 240 127

Individual statistics

Rushing — Blue: Yarboro 12-39, Czako 4-14, Cooper 4-10, Norwood 1-1, White: Rus 11-260, ,Tromba 5-36, Ivory 4-29, Germano 3-18, Gallo 2-3, Sullivan 1-5, Lescano 1-3

Passing — Blue: Yarboro 13-28, 240 yards, 3 TD, Coleman 0-1, White: Stewart 7-14, 62 yards, Gallo 5-12, 44 yards, Germano 1-1, 10 yards

Receiving — Blue: Boyd 5-117, 2 TD, Norwood 5-104, 1 TD, Coleman 1-(04), Kish 1-11, Farley 1-12, White: Lescano 5-44, Ivory 5-38, Sullivan 2-16, Rus 1-29

Tackles — Blue: Bedingfield 8, Hairston 7, Czako 6, Simak 6, Pacheco 5, Patterson 4, Finucan 4, LoDuca 3, Grier 3, Coleman 3, Kochy 2, Moore 2, White: Lescano 7, Rus 6, Sadler 5, Searcy 5, Morrison 4, Daughergy 3, Morgan 3, Black 3, Sullivan 2, Germano 2, Berman 2, Tromba 2.

White 0 14 6 3 — 23

Blue 13 0 7 0 — 20

B — Brandon Boyd 79 pass from Ceejay Yarboro (pass failed)

B — Boyd 19 pass from Yarboro (Jake Hite kick)

W — Danny Stewart 3 run (Joey DiLalla kick)

W — Mason Rus 4 run (DiLalla kick)

W — Carson Gebeau 74 interception return (run failed)

B — Mikey Norwood 54 pass from Yarboro (Hite kick)

W — DiLalla 28 field goal