September 30, 2014

Elyria
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H.S. Football: Elyria Catholic wins third straight after beating Amherst, 28-21

Elyria Catholic's Justin Rankin works his way through defenders for a big gain in the game at Amherst. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Elyria Catholic’s Justin Rankin works his way through defenders for a big gain in the game at Amherst. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

AMHERST — Amherst made plays, made adjustments and even made a quarterback change. The Elyria Catholic passing attack, coupled with a stingy defense, kept the Comets searching for answers … as well as their first win.

Elyria Catholic senior quarterback Jeremy Holley riddled the Amherst defense in the first half as the Panthers built a big lead before holding on for a 28-21 victory at Amherst Memorial Stadium.

It was the third straight win for Elyria Catholic (3-2), while the Comets fell to 0-5.

“At this point every game is a big game,” Holley said. “After that 0-2 start we really can’t afford any more mistakes. You have to give a lot of credit to Amherst … sometimes a winless team is a scary team because those guys are most hungry for a win. They came out and it was a heck of a fight. It was a real grind-out victory.”

The Panthers opened up the offense in the first quarter, with Holley spreading the ball around. He connected on his first four passes in the game’s opening drive, capping the drive by finding Connor Riddell in the right corner of the end zone from 7 yards out.

Amherst answered immediately. Justin Mott caught the ensuing kickoff at his own 14-yard line, broke a tackle and sailed down the right sideline untouched to knot the score at 7.

Elyria Catholic answered, taking the ball 62 yards in 10 plays with Holley crashing in from 1 yard out.

After the Comets, in their next possession, drove into Panthers territory, David Kukucka jumped on Amherst quarterback Derek Eibon’s fumble at the EC 49. On the next play, Holley hit a streaking Riddell for a 51-yard touchdown that gave Elyria Catholic some breathing room.

Holley threw for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

“In the first quarter they came out slinging, and we had a tough time adjusting to it,” Amherst coach Chad DiFranco said. “Their quarterback’s good. He’s started a lot of football games. They were running some timing routes and he was reading our coverages, and he was spot-on.”

Logan Mahar pulled Amherst within a score at 21-14 with a 30-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter before Holley pushed the lead out to 28-14 with a 3-yard touchdown run later in the third.

In the fourth quarter, senior defensive tackle Mike Wearsch blocked an Elyria Catholic punt to give the Comets the ball at the EC 25 with just over seven minutes left in the game. Seven plays later, Anthony Eliopoulos, who relieved Eibon at quarterback, connected with junior tight end Nathan Nunez on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 4:36 left in the game.

The Panthers were able to burn just 1:08 off the clock before punting to the Comets. Amherst drove to the Panthers’ 41, but a fourth-and-1 pass to Josh Kelley was broken up by Connor Hrobat at the EC 15 to end the threat.

Eibon, who started at quarterback after Eliopoulos started the first four games for the Comets, threw for 77 yards, but, most importantly, did not throw an interception.

Polevacik talked about how important the win was for the Panthers, who face a difficult schedule that starts with a road game against unbeaten Avon next week.

“We were 0-2 and we played our hearts out against Elyria,” he said. “We were kind of down in the hole. Our goal at the midway point was to get to 3-2. Then we knew we’d be in the meat grinder … we’d have Avon and Lakewood and Ridgeville and Midview back to back to back to back.

“We knew we were going to hit that grind, so our goal was to get to 3-2. This was where we felt we had to get to.”

DiFranco said his team will continue to improve.

“I told the guys to come in and focus on getting better on one or two things every day,” he said. “We have five games left … let’s go out and win some of them. I don’t have any magic words for them other than that I’m proud of them. We’re going to keep plugging away.”

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or macsportstalk@gmail.com.