ELYRIA — If that’s what it took, Mike Polevacik and his Elyria Catholic Panthers were willing to wait all night to win a football game.
A two-hour lightning delay at halftime of Thursday’s EC-Beachwood non-conference game only seemed to rev up the Panthers in general and Justin Rankin in particular as EC beat the Bison 47-24 for its first win of the year after tough losses to Huron and Elyria to open the season.
Beachwood is also 1-2.
Trailing 17-14 after Beachwood stung the Panthers for two scores in the last 1:05 of the half, all the momentum in the world seemed to be on the side of the Bison when the teams left the field.
Little did anyone know that lightning preceding a steady rainfall would delay the game for 2:02 before play resumed at 10:23 p.m.
“Mike Gibbons and I are friends,” Polevacik said of Beachwood’s coach. “He coached with me under his dad, John. John used to tell the team, ‘We’ll stay all night — go all night and play till they turn the lights off. When the delay happened, I met Mike and said, ‘I want to stay and play.’ I know Mike’s that kind of crazy too. He didn’t want to come back. Let’s stay here and play all night.”
The lightning stopped but the rain continued, but when Rankin took the second-half kick 88 yards for a score, Polevacik had to feel the decision to play was the right one.
Rankin was special to say the least, starting with his first score and continuing with his dazzling return to open the second half after the delay. Rankin finished with four touchdowns, a 2-point conversion, 49 receiving yards and 268 on the ground in addition to his kick return.
“We started fast like we wanted to do,” Rankin said of EC’s 14-3 lead. “I guess our whole team thought it was going to be an easy game. Beachwood smacked a couple touchdowns on us and we’re back in a game. It started raining and storming and we got a nice little (halftime) speech. We came back out ready to play.”
Beachwood’s Julio Stevens was the culprit. He grabbed eight passes for 206 yards, scoring on two terrific plays late in the half to put the Bison on top, 17-14.
EC managed to pick off four interceptions — including a touchdown return for the second game in a row by Jake Jagielski.
The Panthers defense did enough to stall Stevens in the second half. He had just two receptions for 30 yards after the delay. Luke Michalski, Jake Kuchta, Cole Virgin and Jagielski had the picks for the Panthers.
Still, Beachwood led, 24-21 with 5:29 left in the third quarter before EC turned to its running game to take control. The Panthers scored the next 26 points to turn the game into a rout.
Rankin, who never seems to give up on a play and thrives in traffic, along with hard-nosed fullback Will Washington, ran behind Dakota Tallman and EC’s offensive line to rack up 301 yards on the ground to wear out Beachwood.
“You can’t coach that stuff,” Polevacik said of Rankin. “The way he just spins and cuts and moves. You just want him to go but then he does something where he spins and slips out of tackles.”
“The plan all night was ground and pound,” said Tallman, who is 6-foot-5, 300 pounds. “Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. It’s not just one person on the line, it’s all five of us working.”
“We want to be balanced,” Polevacik said. “Both Jeremy (Holley) and Justin are weapons. We don’t want people to know what we’re going to do but when it looked like it might be sloppy in the second half, we said ‘let’s just ride Justin.’ And our backup back, Will Washington, is just a truck, too. We have
two backs. We’re just going to pound the ball. We ended up breaking them.”
Elyria Catholic 47, Beachwood 24
Beachwood 3 14 7 0 — 24
Elyria Catholic 14 0 13 20 — 47
B — FG Dean Granut 28
EC — Justin Rankin, 32 run (run failed)
EC — Jake Jagielski, 37 interception return (Rankin run)
B — Julio Stevens, 48 pass from Tyler Nash (kick failed)
B — Stevens, 25 pass from Nash (Stevens pass from Nash)
EC — Rankin, 83 kick return (Carl Spaetzel kick)
B — Nate Hamilton, 4 run (Granut kick)
EC — Jeremy Holley, 1 run (kick blocked)
EC — Rankin, 19 run (kick blocked)
EC — Will Washington, 13 run (Holley run)
EC — Rankin, 55 run (kick failed)
First downs 11 19
— by rushing 4 14
— by passing 6 5
— by penalty 1 0
Yards rushing 56 301
Yards passing 206 101
Total offense 262 402
Passes att./comp. 16/8 18/8
Intercepted by 0 4
Fumbles/lost 2/0 4/2
Penalties/yards 5/25 6/66
RUSHING — (B) Jordan Lane 16-74, Nate Hamilton 9-7, Tyler Nash 5-(-27), Charles Colson 3-2. (EC) Justin Rankin 21-268, William Washington 9-62, Jeremy Holley 4-(-36), Conner Hrobat 1-2, Jake Kuchta 1-7, Jerot Schill 1-(-1), Darrell Davis 1-(-1).
PASSING — (B) Tyler Nash 8-16-206-2-4. (EC) Jeremy Holley 8-18-101-0-0.
RECEIVING — (B) Julio Stevens 8-206. (EC) Connor Hrobat 3-28, Conner Riddell 2-22, Justin Rankin 2-49, Cole Virgin 1-2.