EATON TWP. — The Greensburg Panthers had a three-hour drive from their home 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh to Midview High School for their Cardinal Conference championship matchup with the Lorain County Nightmares.
Nightmares tight end Troy Davila was not impressed.
Davila woke up at 4 a.m. to start his journey from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Grafton, getting to the game near the end of the first quarter and opening the Nightmares’ scoring with an 8-yard touchdown reception as Lorain County advanced to the Ohio Football League championship game with a 25-17 victory.
“It was a long day,” Davila said. “I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning and just headed down the road. I was down in Myrtle Beach vacationing and doing some work with some training classes. I also asked my girlfriend, Ashley Palmer, to marry me while I was down there.
“By the time I got into Ohio I was drained, but catching that touchdown pass made it definitely worth the drive. But I’m about ready for bed right now.”
Davila, perhaps the most tired player on the field, was the one that finally woke up the Nightmares. Greensburg (8-3) scored on its first two possessions to take a 10-0 lead and its defense was pushing the Lorain County offense all over the field.
“He came in cold and made the biggest catch of the game,” Nightmares quarterback Cody Schuster said. “It really got us going. They really didn’t stop us in the first half, we killed ourselves, but we made the adjustments and we’re playing next week for the championship.”
Greensburg (8-3) still led 10-0 with just over two minutes left in the first half. But Davila capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive when Schuster found him in the right corner of the end zone from 8 yards out.
Blake Sopko added the extra point to cut the Panthers’ lead to 10-7 and, after Gib Harris picked off a pass from Greensburg quarterback Rob Dee with 1:06 left in the half it looked like momentum had swung Lorain County’s way.
That’s when the Nightmares made a critical mistake.
On the next play from scrimmage, Schuster’s pass was intercepted by Panthers safety Jerry Harris, who returned it all the way back to the Lorain County 1-yard line.
Dee scored on a sneak from there in the final minute of the half to give Greensburg a 17-7 halftime lead.
“It was a terrible throw,” Schuster said. “You never throw the ball late over the middle. You have to throw it out of bounds and I apologize to our defensive coordinator for putting him in that position. It should have been 10 points in the half, not 17.”
The Nightmares, who moved to a perfect 12-0 in the Ohio Football League with the victory, made some changes at halftime … both in personnel and in attitude.
The biggest move was sliding defensive lineman Stephen Fejedelem over to right tackle. After Schuster was sacked five times in the first half, he was caught just once in the second.
The Nightmares also decided to leave it all on the field in the second half.
“We haven’t been down much and at halftime you could tell with our guys that it kind of got to them because we’re so used to being up,” linebacker Sonny Hazelwood said. “I told them it was a long game, that you can’t score 10 points on one play so we had to play one play at a time and win that play.
“The coaches told me I had to fire these guys up so I knew I had to go out there and get the crowd and the defense back into it. We really imposed our will in the second half. Our defensive line really shut them down.”
Hazelwood ended the game with 16 tackles and a pair of sacks. After allowing 107 total yards in the first two quarters, the Nightmares defense limited Greensburg to just 11 total yards in the second half.
“I think Pennsylvania teams have been overlooked all year, and we wanted to come out and play our type of football,” Panthers coach Charles Dawson said. “I think our conditioning fell off in the second half and their numbers took over, but that’s on us.”
The Panthers had just 30 players dressed for the game and were missing starting quarterback Craig Gordon, who broke his arm last week.
“It hurt us because he’s the leader of our team,” Dawson said of Gordon’s injury. “He’s the heart and soul. His brother died this year and everyone really closed in around him. … That’s our guy. Rob stepped up and played a great game for us tonight, but that’s our guy. He has a broken arm and will be ready next year.”
Schuster threw three touchdown passes in the second half and finished the game with 316 passing yards and four touchdowns. Nine of his completions went to Ricky Earl, who had 158 receiving yards and put Lorain County on top for good with a 10-yard touchdown grab with 3:05 left in the third quarter.
“Ricky Earl was unbelievable,” Nightmares coach Terry Murray said. “He’s got a different caliber of play, and earlier in the year we didn’t see that Ricky Earl. Now that the playoffs have rolled around he’s doing phenomenal things. He’s a guy that has multiple speeds on his routes and it’s hard for these other teams to handle.”
Adam Herbert added five catches for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Lorain County, which advanced to title game against the 12-0 Ohio Golden Knights on Sunday at 7 p.m.
“I scouted them last night and they have some playmakers, just like we do,” Murray said. “I think it’s going to be an exciting game”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lorain County 25, Greensburg 17
Greensburg 3 14 0 0 — 17
Lorain County 0 7 12 6 — 25
G — Pat Costello, 36 field goal
G — A.J. Graves, 19 run (Costello kick)
LC — Troy Davila, 8 pass from Cody Schuster (Blake Sopko kick)
G — Rob Dee, 1 run (Costello kick)
LC — Adam Herbert, 46 pass from Schuster (kick failed)
LC — Ricky Earl, 10 pass from Schuster (pass failed)
LC — Herbert, 15 pass from Schuster (kick failed)
First downs 10 19
— by rushing 7 3
— by passing 1 15
— by penalty 2 1
Yards rushing 118 91
Yards passing 0 275
Total offense 118 366
Passes att./comp. 11/4 29/17
Intercepted by 1 2
Fumbles/lost 1/0 0/0
Penalties/yards 13/95 9/45
RUSHING — (G) AJ Graves 6-26, Rob Hayden III 6-59, Rob Dee 8-33. (LC) Cody Schuster 10-73, Aaron James 4-19, Tim Vance 3-4, Tom Taylor 2- (-5).
PASSING — (G) Dee 4-11-28-0-1. (LC) Schuster 17-29-316-4-1.
RECEIVING — (G) King Dean 1-12, Jewell Stephens 1-10, Dan Blaszkowski 1-6, Hayden III 1-0. (LC) Earl 9-158, Herbert 5-105, Taylor 1-17, Davila 1-8, Michael Mealing 1-10.