ELYRIA — Resilience was the word of the day at Ely Stadium, where the Pioneers somehow, someway found enough heart to turn away Shaker Heights 14-8 Friday in Northeast Ohio River Division play.
After losing two straight games in gut-wrenching fashion and facing an explosive Red Raiders team, the Pioneers could have been buried. But Elyria’s defense refused to fold and the offense made just enough plays to give the Pioneers their sixth win of the year.
“We should be 8-0, but we’re not 8-0,” coach Kevin Fell said. “But we could have very easily been 5-3. Guys just made great plays all night. We’re tickled pink with the way they played.
“We could have gone either way (this week), but the only thing I knew for sure was that we’d play better defense.”
How Shaker (5-3) didn’t come away with any points the first half is beyond comprehension. The Raiders ran 40 plays to Elyria’s 15 over the course of the half and had the ball with first downs at the 5, 24, 22 and 23 only to be turned away each time.
How’d they do it?
** Elyria’s Zach Robinson, who picked off a pair of passes, made the key stop on a fourth-down attempt at the 1-yard line to end the Raiders’ 19-play, 72-yard drive that opened the game.
** Trayvon Cummings recovered a fumble at the 16 to stop Shaker’s second possession — a 10-play effort that started at its 43.
** Two straight stuffs by linebacker Connor Kamczyc and a combined sack from freshman Kevin Bough and Devin Reed pushed the Raiders into a fourth-and-26.
** Kamczyc intercepted Brian Jones on the final threat at the 9-yard line.
“I’ll remember this game when I’m 40,” Robinson said. “We never quit. We believe in ourselves.”
“I think that first drive set the tone for our defense,” said Kamczyc, who again was all over the field making tackles. “We came up with the big stops when we needed it. That first series, I wasn’t aware how quick they were. I made adjustments, the whole team made adjustments.”
“Coming in at the half, we had them right where we wanted,” said Jordan Connell, who joins his sidekick at tailback — Jumarr Lewis — as the only two-way players for the Pioneers. “Defense had to stay strong and the offense had to keep coming.”
Connell grabbed a huge fourth-down pass from Hunter Parsh and covered the 16 yards to get Elyria on the board in the third quarter after Robinson set up the score with an interception at the 35. Parsh had misfired on two wide-open passes into the end zone but came through to Connell.
Lewis added a second score after Shaker turned it over on downs at Elyria’s 42-yard line. The Pioneers responded with a seven-play drive sparked by Lewis and Connell out of the Wildcat formation.
Connell added what appeared to be the clinching score with 6:35 to play in the fourth quarter but fumbled into the end zone, giving the Raiders a last chance. Shaker drove the 80 yards in 10 plays and converted the 2-point conversion.
Connell grabbed the ensuing kick and the Pioneers, unlike the games at Brunswick and North Royalton, converted two huge first downs to salt away the game.
Shaker was its own worst enemy. The Raiders were flagged for 95 yards in penalties and turned the ball over four times. They also had trouble playing on the natural turf of Ely Stadium.
“We never had field position the first half,” Fell said. “But I knew at the half we could do it. I knew we could move the ball.
“You can say what you want about the mud. They were slower, but our kids weren’t. Our kids were quick all day. We just didn’t have the ball enough (the first half) to make the difference.”
JACK BE QUICK: Elyria Sports Hall of Famer Jack Beidleman returned to his hometown to take in the game. Beidleman was one of Elyria’s greatest runners and kick returners in 1965 and ’66 and later was a Little All-American at Akron.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.