PARMA — It didn’t take long for Elyria High to settle matters Thursday against Valley Forge in a Northeast Ohio Conference crossover game.
Two touches of the football, in fact.
The Pioneers got two scores off those two touches just 2:37 into the game and went on to post a convincing 49-20 win at Byers Field.
Jumarr Lewis raced 80 yards with the first play from scrimmage and Dan Ratliff returned Valley Forge’s punt 79 yards for another TD after a three-and-out. Steve Poskocil, perfect on seven extra points on the night, made it 14-0 with 9:23 still left in the first quarter.
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“After Jumarr (Lewis) ran that first play, it gave us all the momentum,” said Ratliff, a senior co-captain. “Me going after that punt just put the icing on the cake right there.”
“We’re really a very good football team,” said Elyria coach Kevin Fell after his team improved to 4-2. Valley Forge fell to 1-5. “We’ve run into two great quarterbacks (Midview’s Cody Callaway and North Royalton’s Travis Tarnowski) but we played about our normal game. Defensively we were a little sharper and I think we got a little better as we got along. This was exactly what we needed.”
After losing a 62-55 shootout to Tarnowski and North Royalton last week, the margin for error is rather slim if the Pioneers still believe the playoffs are a possibility. Thursday’s game had to give Elyria a big lift on several fronts.
The Pioneers have Cuyahoga Falls and Stow up next before finishing with tough games against Hudson and Mayfield.
Should Elyria run the table, the postseason should be a given, but it won’t be easy. Three of the four are on the road.
Defensively, Tracy Sprinkle, Connor Kamczyk and Shawn Masterson led a tenacious first-half effort that kept Valley Forge from establishing anything. The Pioneers went ahead 42-0 on a barrage of huge plays by their bevy of outstanding athletes.
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Parsh had his most efficient outing of the year, completing 11 of 15 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns — all in the first half.
Parsh hit Dontae Dukes for an 8-yard score on Elyria’s third possession and found Du’Jaun Glover and Jordan Connell for a short gains that the two turned into 66- and 78-yard touchdowns in the second quarter.
Parsh finished the half hitting Ratliff for a 56-yard pitch-and-run that sent the Pioneers to the locker room in front 49-7.
Valley Forge had just 154 net yards in the first half and 207 for the night. Elyria finished with over 500 yards of offense in spite of nine penalties (109 yards) that nullified a couple other huge plays.
“We kept it rolling,” Ratliff said. “We should have won last week. We put up 55 points but made some mental mistakes. Winning this game puts us back where we need to be.’
“We practiced hard all week after that loss last week,” Glover said. “We needed to get that off our minds. That was a bad taste in our mouth. We needed to bounce back hard and get this big victory. We needed a game like this.”
Fell was able to pull his starters for the most part in the second half. Backup quarterback Zack Minney engineered a couple drives that had Elyria ready to score but two penalties nullified touchdowns.
“Offensively, we could do just about what we wanted,” Fell said. “(Jumarr) had a pretty good run (to start the game). We had a lot of yards that first half. We really only played a half which is OK. All our guys want to play.”
BUSY BYERS: Elyria’s Thursday night game with Valley Forge was the first of three scheduled for Byers Field this weekend. North Royalton takes on Normandy tonight and St. Ignatius meets Glenville on Saturday night. Byers, by the way, is now also known as Robert Boulton Stadium.