BRUNSWICK — Just when everyone — including coach Kevin Fell — thought Elyria had control of Friday’s Northeast Ohio Conference crossover game, Brunswick spoiled the perfect season the Pioneers were working on.
The Blue Devils pounded the ball 75 yards in 11 plays in the final 4:19 to hand Elyria its first loss, 40-35. Chase Rieg, called upon just this past Wednesday to replace injured starting tailback Richie Norman, ran the final 12 yards, leaving the Pioneers just 52 seconds to respond.
They couldn’t and Elyria fell to 5-1. Brunswick is 4-2.
“We didn’t play very good off-tackle defense,” Fell said. “We had them just where we wanted. We had the ball. We get what I thought was the finishing touchdown and we had a hold (penalty). We just didn’t play as well as we could play.”
After Elyria took the lead on a beautifully executed post pattern from junior quarterback Hunter Parsh to senior Tavon Kurtz, and Josh Lewis added the point after, the Pioneers had a 35-34 lead with 7:20 to play.
The Pioneers appeared to seal the deal, too, when senior Jordan Connell raced 51 yards for a score with 5:09 left, but a holding call brought the ball back and the Pioneers couldn’t move it, setting up Brunswick’s final winning drive.
The Blue Devils took it to Elyria early and often — building a 27-7 lead as time wore down in the first half. The Blue Devils converted some big third downs and ran the ball effectively with Rieg and Michael Begany picking up chunks of yardage.
But as many opponents have learned the past two years — with Connell and fellow senior Jumarr Lewis in the backfield, the Pioneers are never really out of a game. Connell struck from 80 yards on a second down after the Blue Devils pinned Elyria on the 20 with a touchback kickoff and the defense finally came to life — turning a flea-flicker trick play into a huge loss to force Brunswick to punt.
Elyria scored quickly. A 41-yard pass to Eric Eisom set up Connell for a 14-yard run and suddenly the Pioneers were down only 27-21.
A Brunswick fumble on the next series gave the Pioneers one last chance to grab the lead before the half but after a Parsh-to-Marquise Edwards throw got the ball to the Brunswick 4 with 11 seconds left, a Connell run for 2 and an out-of-bounds pass intended for Kurtz in the end zone ended the half.
“We made some mistakes offensively we haven’t been making,” Fell said. “We probably should have had, in essence, one, maybe two more touchdowns. I tip my hat to Brunswick. They played a great football game.”
Parsh was sacked four times and couldn’t get into any rhythm, going just 9-of-23 throwing the ball. Elyria went to its Wildcat formation at times, using Lewis to take the snap. It was effective occasionally as both Connell (124 yards) and Lewis (90) gave the Blue Devils plenty to think about defensively.
On defense, Elyria forced two fumbles, sacked Steven Ficyk three times and intercepted a pass thanks to tireless linebacker Conner Kamczyc, but when push came to shove, Brunswick ruled the day.
Rieg, who had fumbled earlier, was the key for Brunswick’s running attack, which finished with 269 yards on the ground.
“I give it all to my linemen,” he said. “Everyone has to do their job for me to be able to do my job. We could move the ball on them and we weren’t going to stop.”
For Brunswick coach Luke Beal, who replaced the legendary Rich Nowak a few years ago, the win was huge.
“I can’t think of any right now that are better,” he said. “To be in the situation these kids were in late in the game and find a way to get it done — I couldn’t be prouder.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.