ELYRIA — Mike Polevacik knew the challenge at hand.
In fact, the Elyria Catholic coach said Elyria High was bigger, stronger and faster coming into Round 3 of the Battle of Elyria.
He could have added better.
The Pioneers scored late in the first half, early in the second and won with ease, 43-7, over the game but outmanned Panthers on Friday at Ely Stadium in front of a crowd estimated at 2,800.
“Our kids pride themselves in being big, strong and fast,” Elyria coach Kevin Fell said. “Offensively we have a lot of weapons.”
“We couldn’t play four quarters with them,” said Polevacik. “They’re just so deep and they have so many great athletes that are hard to contain. I have nothing but the greatest respect for Coach Fell. He coaches great football. He does some very smart things.”
The game swung Elyria’s way just when you thought EC had a chance.
The Panthers’ Collin Lester intercepted sophomore Hunter Parsh on a long overthrow at his 35-yard line with 3:53 left in the first half. Eleven plays later, junior Jeremy Holley had marched Elyria Catholic to a score, hitting Jacob Moore with a 7-yard completion just inside the goal line. Moore’s extra point pulled the Panthers within 14-7 with 1:50 left and could have enabled EC to build some momentum going into halftime.
But Elyria came right back, using its timeouts wisely, and scored with 3.7 seconds left on a jail-break screen from Parsh to Darrin Terry. All the momentum got sucked right out of EC at that point. Elyria dominated play in the second half, scoring on its first two possessions and forcing a safety on a bull rush by Tracy Sprinkle, Paul Males and Connor Kamczyc to put away the game at 37-7.
“We had that one trick play that we saved,” Fell said. “That was that ‘Fox’ that looks like a quick screen and takes off. It’s kind of tough knowing you’re down 21-7 and we’ve got the ball coming back.”
“I felt we were there,” Polevacik said. “I felt we were in the fight, but giving them that extra one really hurt. It was a backbreaker. The second half, we just wore down.”
Sprinkle, who lined up everywhere on the defensive line, chased Holley all night long, getting a half-dozen tackles for loss. Holley, after completing 16 of 26 passes the first half, found his target just five more times the second half on 16 throws.
Receivers Conner Riddell (nine catches for 106 yards) and Connor Hrobat (six catches for 53) gave the Pioneers some trouble. Holley was able to nickel-and-dime his way through the first half, but the danger signs were there as Elyria consistently pressured Holley.
Sprinkle was responsible for a lot of the damage but Males, Kamczyc, Shawn Masterson and the rest of the defense made plays as well. EC finished with negative yards on the ground and actually ran the ball just five times. Jumarr Lewis, one of Elyria’s three fine tailbacks, was inserted at corner to solidify the secondary.
Much like last week’s opener against Amherst, Elyria gradually dominated the line of scrimmage, rushing for 257 yards and throwing for 189. Jordan Connell had another great night, scoring twice and getting 144 yards on the ground in 16 carries.
“We had to start stronger than we did last week,” said Connell, who broke free for a 65-yard score in the second quarter. “It all starts upfront. Whatever the line gives me, I’m going to take it.”
“We had great protection upfront,” senior center Cody Schneider said. “It was back and forth for a little bit but (EC) had 33 people to our 80. They were worn out at the end.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Keon Neely’s 34-yard breakaway started the scoring with 8:11 left in the second quarter.
“When Keon ran that touchdown, we had really not had a very good running game the whole first quarter,” said Fell. “He breaks three tackles and runs around the end for a touchdown. (EC’s) defense had to think they were falling apart.
“The very first pass we ran, two of our linemen got knocked over and one of our backs got knocked over and I was like, ‘Uh-oh.’ But from then on, I thought we got better.”
TALK TALK: Danny Reaser, who engineered EC’s win at Ely Stadium two years ago, gave the pregame motivational speech to his former teammates. It seemed to work through a scoreless first quarter when the Panthers played toe-to-toe with Elyria High.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 43, Elyria Catholic 7
Elyria Catholic 0 7 0 0 — 7
Elyria 0 21 16 6 — 43
E — Keon Neely 34 run (Steve Poskocil kick)
E — Jordan Connell 65 run (Poskocil kick)
EC — Jacob Moore 7 pass from Jeremy Holley (Moore kick)
E — Darrin Terry 24 pass from Hunter Parsh (Poskocil kick)
E — Connell 31 run (Poskocil kick)
E — SAFETY (Holley sacked in end zone)
E — Terry 2 pass from Parsh (Poskocil kick)
E — Dontae Dukes 47 pass from Parsh (kick blocked)
First downs 12 17
— by rushing 1 11
— by passing 10 6
— by penalty 1 0
Yards rushing -34 257
Yards passing 195 189
Total offense 161 446
Passes att./comp. 42/21 20/13
Intercepted by 1 0
Fumbles/lost 3/3 3/2
Penalties/yards 3/22 3/30
RUSHING — (EC) Justin Taylor 3-1, Taylor Reaser 2-3, Jeremy Holley 11-(-38). (E) Jordan Connell 16-144, Keon Neely 10-63, Jumarr Lewis 7-24, Hunter Parsh 3-4, Zack Minney 1-5, Glen Ewing 6-22.
PASSING — (EC) Jeremy Holley 21-42-195-1-0. (E) Hunter Parsh 13-19-189-3-1, Zach Minney 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — (EC) Conner Riddell 9-109, Jacob Moore 3-26, Connor Hrobat 6-53, Justin Taylor 3-10. (E) Dontae Dukes 4-101, Dan Ratliff 4-37, Da’Jaun Glover 2-20, Darrin Terry 2-31.