Ross continues deepest-ever football playoff run by dominating top seed

Rams rush for 453 yards in 41-19 rout

BELLBROOK – Denied a postseason victory in seven previous trips to the Ohio high school football playoffs, Ross High School rolled to a third straight postseason win Friday behind its enormous offensive line and dominating run game. The Rams, who are three wins away from a state title, handled host and top-seeded Bellbrook 41-19 in a Division III, Region 12 semifinal at Miami Valley South Stadium.

Ross (8-1), the five seed, will host No. 6 Alter, a 20-3 winner over No. 2 Badin, in next Friday’s regional final.

Bellbrook, ranked No. 2 in the final AP state poll, finishes 8-1.

Ross’s offensive line, anchored by Ohio University recruit Kaden Rogers (6-foot-3, 270 pounds), averages 6-3, 270. Bellbrook’s defensive line averages 6-1, 200 pounds. That discrepancy helped fuel an offensive charge that churned out 453 yards rushing and touchdowns on five of its first six possessions. Senior fullback Jackson Gifford (5-10, 220) ran for a career-high 241 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Senior quarterback C.J. Boze added 143 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.

“They’re pretty large mammals,” Ross head coach Kenyon Commins said of his offensive line. “They’re great. And then you add Jackson behind that and C.J.. It’s just a difficult offense to defend when it’s run efficiently.”

“That offensive line is the reason I’m successful,” said Gifford, who has 1,476 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns this season. “They’re humongous.”

“Massive,” Bellbrook head coach Jeff Jenkins said. “A massive offensive line. And a really good offensive system. We just had trouble getting off the field. We had a lot of opportunities, third and mediums, third and shorts. Their size just got the best of us.”

The Rams converted 9-of-13 third downs and were perfect (3-for-3) on fourth.

Down 7-0 after Bellbrook took the opening possession 68 yards in eight plays, Ross responded with a 22-play, 88-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard Boze touchdown run. The march lasted 10:03 and set the tone.

“They came out firing and we fired back,” Gifford said. “We knew that they had a couple guys going both ways and we had to wear on them. That first drive really hurt them.”

“It did,” Commins said. “When we were warming up, I looked at them and physically that’s a good looking football team. I didn’t know if we were going to be able to wear them down, but we just stuck to what we do and it paid dividends for us.”

Bellbrook scored a touchdown on its second possession. Ross responded with 34 straight points.

Seth Borondy, who returned from a leg injury suffered in Week 6, rushed for 79 yards on 12 carries for the Eagles, while Taylor Jordan turned his only carry into an 80-yard touchdown run. Bellbrook quarterback Alex Westbrock connected on touchdown passes of 26 and 23 yards to Ethan Fryman and Jordan, respectively.

“We knew we had to go punch for punch,” Jenkins said. “They are a very impressive team. I don’t know too many Division III high schools with an offensive line like that and a run game and backfield quite like that. They’re getting the most out of their guys.”

“We’re a senior dominated team,” Commins said. “Anytime you have that, you have a chance to do something special. Everything has kind of aligned for us.”

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