Many years down the road, when Cleveland Hill players look back on the 2012 season, they will have a great story to tell about their season. They will also have quite the story to tell about the team they took on in their final game.
The Hornell Red Raiders continued one of the most dominant stretches of high school football in state history by winning its 50th straight game Saturday afternoon, overwhelming Cleveland Hill, 27-6, in the Class C Far West Regional game.
About 1,800 at All High Stadium watched Hornell establish a new Section V (Rochester area) record win streak as it passed the mark of 49 established by another traditional power, Caledonia-Mumford.
The 50-game win streak for Hornell, which has won three straight state championships, is also the third-longest active streak in the country, trailing only the 57 of Clairton (Pa.) and the 55 of Pahranagat Valley (Nev.).
Senior Julian Reinhart was the living, breathing, hard-hitting example of Hornell football’s all-around excellence as he scored touchdowns in three different ways, catching a pass, returning a punt and returning an interception. He had three interceptions and six tackles to help lead Hornell to a 20-6 second half after leading just 7-0 at halftime.
“We knew we had our hands full today – they’re a great football team, I hope they take it all,” Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham said of Hornell. “They’ve got a lot of weapons, they play well defensively and obviously they’re well coached. I’m proud of the way our team competed. Ultimately, there’s no disappointment.”
Cleveland Hill’s defense helped keep it a 7-0 game at halftime. With Hornell going with a no-huddle attack, the Golden Eagles – led by game defensive MVP senior Johnathan Thomas (14 tackles) – were often pushing into the backfield.
Hornell pushed its lead to 14-0 on Reinhart’s first touchdown of the game, an excellent 76-yard punt return in which the 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior got some key blocks to get to the left sideline and then coasted to the score.
The Golden Eagles drew to within 14-6 in the third quarter when Thomas scored on a fourth-and-goal, 9-yard pass play from senior quarterback Jacob Radlich.
But Hornell – and Reinhart – ran away from the Golden Eagles in the fourth quarter. Reinhart scored on a 4-yard pass from senior quarterback Richie Harkenrider with 6:46 left in the game to make it a 20-6 lead. Just 19 seconds later, Reinhart stepped in front of a pass to the right side and ran it back 44 yards for a touchdown.
“They’re going to hit you all four quarters,” Thomas said of Hornell. “They’re definitely going to test your heart and pride. Just a great program.”
Hornell advances to the state semifinals, where it will face Chenango Forks (11-0) of Section IV (Binghamton area) next Saturday at noon at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. The Red Raiders are in their first season in Class C after many years in B, where it won the last three state titles.
Cleve Hill falls to 0-3 in regionals. “As disappointing as today is, they’re still a championship team,” said Graham.