ELYRIA — Fifty-five points weren’t enough for Elyria on Homecoming at Ely Stadium.
The Pioneers did things Friday on offense and special teams their fans hadn’t seen before but simply had no answers for North Royalton’s Travis Tarnowski and his pack of receivers. North Royalton came away with a 62-55 victory — the highest-scoring game in the history of the venerable stadium off Middle Avenue.
Elyria fell to 3-2, while the Bears improved to 5-0. The game opened play in the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division. Four of North Royalton’s wins have come with scoring bursts over 50 points.
“We played as hard as we could play,” Elyria coach Kevin Fell said. “We probably just didn’t play as smart as we could play defensively.
“They had us on the ropes. That quarterback is tremendous. What makes their offense so good is he is so active and he’s on the money (throwing).”
Tarnowski threw five touchdown passes and finished with 314 yards through the air. He ran for another 52 in spite of being chased and buried more than a few times by Elyria’s defensive line, which was led by Ohio State recruit Tracy Sprinkle. But Tarnowski slipped away from the Pioneers on a couple of third and fourth downs to pick up first downs.
“I was shocked that I got away from him,” Tarnowski said. “I got the first down. We came away with a victory. That’s all that matters.”
The ball bounced Elyria’s way early. That was obvious when Jordan Connell fumbled after a slicing 32-yard kick return only to have teammate Jumarr Lewis alertly pick it up and run 63 yards to tie the game at 14 with 2:45 still left in a first quarter that featured 35 points. Lewis later ran a kick back 87 yards with 9:10 left in the first half to put Elyria in front 28-21.
“We couldn’t pull it out,” said Lewis, who led Elyria’s ground attack with 124 yards and three touchdowns. “We tried everything in our power, but North Royalton’s a great football team and I guess they came out ready to play.”
Elyria maintained that precarious lead when Du’Jaun Glover finished the first half with an electrifying 52-yard reverse off Connell’s pitch to put the Pioneers in front 41-34.
“We went in at halftime and had some bad things happen to us,” North Royalton coach Vince Ciulli said. “We get a big hit on a kickoff and the ball bounces right back in the kid’s hands (Lewis) and he takes it all the way. They score on that crazy reverse, but we’re only down like it’s 7-0. We need that first score (of the second half). All we wanted to do was win the second half.”
That they did.
The Bears scored on the opening possession of the second half and went ahead after a key interception and big return by Mike Cunningham. Both teams scored twice in the final quarter, but the Bears’ advantage remained.
“You can’t blame this all on our defense,” Ciulli said. “We had a pick that we took all the way back to the 20. We needed a fumble, we got a fumble. I don’t know what we could ask from them playing a potent offense like Elyria.”
“Even at the end, we had a shot,” Fell said. “We just couldn’t catch the ball.”
Lewis had some open field ahead of him on a screen pass on Elyria’s last gasp on a fourth down from midfield, but Lewis may have looked upfield before securing the ball. Royalton finished the game in victory formation.
Sophomore Hunter Parsh threw three TD passes, hitting Dontae Dukes, Darrin Terry and Glover. Elyria put up more than 400 yards of offense.
“We had more than them,” Ciulli said. “That’s all that matters. All I care is that we had one more than them.”
• PILE HIGH: The 117 points bettered the previous record for a Pioneers game. That came at Byers Field when Elyria rolled past Parma 62-33 in 2003.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.