AMHERST — Sometimes the instability of the atmosphere can be cruel.
Amherst was clicking Friday night before officials pulled the teams off the field late in the first quarter because of lightning. Ninety-five minutes later, officials from Amherst and Berea-Midpark decided to forge ahead with their Southwestern Conference game.
Berea-Midpark (1-3, 1-0) responded with three unanswered touchdowns — two on returns after interceptions thrown by Anthony Eliopoulos — leading the Titans to a 19-7 victory.
It was the first win in school history after Berea and Midpark high schools merged for this season. For the Comets, it’s back to the drawing board with an 0-4 start.
Amherst coach Chad DiFranco didn’t blame the delay or the field conditions for the way his team played.
“It was the same field for both teams,” DiFranco said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win. It was a little bit unique in that the break was so long. Both teams had time to make adjustments.
“I don’t think it really impacted the game in terms of either side gaining an advantage over the other.”
The Titans defense forced five turnovers. The Titans offense didn’t have one.
Eliopoulos’ 1-yard pass to fullback Derek Eibon opened the scoring. But after the rain, Berea-Midpark answered with Joey Bachie’s 6-yard touchdown run to tie things at 7 after a quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, Eliopoulos was picked off by Jared Paul, who raced 25 yards for a 13-7 halftime lead.
Did the field conditions play a part in the turnovers?
“A little bit, I guess,” DiFranco said. “We practice in bad conditions. Obviously, turnovers in any game are big. But at the same time, they’re playing in the same stuff we are.
“We just have to make some plays and get the games turned around and we’ve got to do a better job as a staff in terms of getting our playmakers to make plays. It’s a combination of things we need to work on in order to get over the hump.”
Amherst moved the ball well in the second half, racking up 104 of its 125 rushing yards and 70 of its 117 passing yards. Unfortunately, turnovers played a key role in keeping the Titans ahead.
On Amherst’s second possession of the half, facing second-and-15 from its 19, Eliopoulos was picked off by Austin Heil, who raced untouched for a back-breaking 27-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, but Berea-Midpark’s lead increased to 19-7.
Taking the ball at the start of the fourth quarter, the Comets held it for 18 plays and gained 83 yards to the Titans 3. They had three cracks from the 3 to get in, but Eliopoulos was stopped for no gain, had a ball tipped for an incompletion and then threw an interception in the end zone to Heil for a touchback.
On Amherst’s next possession, sophomore Josh Kelley caught a short pass and tried a hook-and-ladder pitch. The lateral fell to the muddy turf, and the Titans fell on it with 2:32 remaining.
“We were able to move the ball in the second half and we put together a couple of decent drives, but they didn’t result in any points,” DiFranco said. “We’ve got to learn how to finish. The problem is we don’t have any big plays so we have to nickel-and-dime it down the field. It takes a lot of snaps and a lot of time.
“Obviously the more times you snap the ball, the more times the defense has the chance to make a play. We did get into a rhythm offensively in the second half, but we’ve got to turn that into points.”
Eliopoulos completed 12 of 24 passes for 117 yards with three interceptions. Senior Logan Mahar led the ground game with 73 yards on 18 carries.
“We only gave up one score, so I’m very happy with how the defense played,” DiFranco said. “But we still lost 19-7. I think we’ve got to pin our hat on the fact that our defense played very well and we were able to move the ball a little bit in the second half and work toward getting that first win next Friday.”
Amherst takes on Elyria Catholic.
LIGHTNING CRASHES: This was one of two games finished in Lorain County (Cleveland Central Catholic at Vermilion). All the other games were postponed to be concluded today.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.