ELYRIA — If the fourth chapter of the Elyria-Elyria Catholic football series Friday was indeed the final time the city schools hook up for a game, it certainly left fans, players, coaches and observers exhausted, but wanting more.
It was an epic battle won by the Pioneers 48-33, their third in a row after EC won the inaugural meeting. Elyria is 2-0 on the year, EC 0-2.
“EC played a great football game,” Elyria coach Kevin Fell said. “They had certain guys that could do certain things and they took advantage of it. Whenever you have a quarterback (Jeremy Holley) like that, you’re never out of it and (Justin Rankin) beat our special teams up pretty bad in the first half.”
There were more fireworks than you’d see on a typical Independence Day. How about four scores 80 yards or longer, including back-to-back kick returns from Rankin, EC’s scintillating junior, and Elyria four-year starter Jumarr Lewis. In fact, Rankin had two returns for scores that rallied the Panthers into a tie at 20 late in the first half.
“Justin Rankin’s one of the best players in Ohio,” EC coach Mike Polevacik said. “Flat out. He had two huge scores for us and kept us in the game.”
But Elyria, pinned deep not once but twice, turned potential disaster into backbreaking scores. One was a 95-yard catch-and-run by senior Jordan Connell after a short throw from Hunter Parsh with 13 seconds left in the first half to break the tie.
“We’ve been working on that play all week,” Parsh said.
“That was a play we put in this week,” Fell said. “We saved it for the right time.”
“We prepared for that,” Polevacik said. “We told the kids and prepared all week. Huron used that same kind of scheme on us. We knew they were going to do it. It’s just a great athlete running that play. Both Lewis and Connell, it’s hard to match great athletes like that when they spread you out.”
The Panthers had fought hard to tie the game, only to have the Pioneers regain the momentum.
“That play really killed us,” Rankin said. “We thought we’d go out at the half tied and they did a little trick play in the middle, tossed it to Jordan, and he was gone. It was a momentum killer at that point.”
The other backbreaker was a record-tying 99-yard run by Lewis that appeared to put the game away once and for all at 48-27 with 1:10 left in the third quarter. EC had just downed a punt inches from the goal line when Lewis broke free on the next play.
“I give credit to Tavon Kurtz,” Lewis said. “Kurtz made a great block, and that’s what got the play going along with the offensive line.”
Lewis finished with 261 yards, including back-to-back 62- and 99-yard touchdowns to go with his 88-yard return. Connell racked up 101 on the ground and 122 through the air.
“Jumarr Lewis was unbelievable and Jordan, too,” Fell said. “We’ve got weapons. We just have to utilize them.”
When it appeared the Pioneers were going to put the game on ice midway through the fourth quarter, Jake Jagielski stepped up to pick off Parsh at his 10 and return it all the way to breathe life into the Panthers once again.
“That’s why we’re better this year,” Holley said. “Last year, we would have folded. We kept fighting and gave ourselves a chance.”
The Panthers ran out of downs at Elyria’s 3-yard line as they tried to put themselves in a position to attempt an onside kick in the waning moments.
“We tried to incorporate some blitzes,” Elyria linebacker Connor Kamczyc said. “We wanted to put some pressure on him. He’s a great quarterback, but I’m just glad we got the ‘W.’”
If nothing else, both sides came away impressed with the other.
“I give much respect to them,” Lewis said. “They only play 16 guys and for most of them to play both ways was an incredible game.”
“I have a lot of respect for (Jumarr) and E-High,” Rankin said. “I respect every one of their players. They work hard.”
99 and 1/2: Lewis’ 99-yard score obviously is a record that can’t be broken, but it only tied Elyria High’s longest scoring play from scrimmage. Tony Godbolt turned the 99-yard trick in 1989 at Vermilion on his way to setting Elyria’s single-game rushing mark of 303 yards. Isaac Johnson did it in 1994 against Southview when he merely wanted to run out the clock yet found himself in the clear. Ironically, WEOL’s Tim Alcorn was on hand for all three.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.