STOW — It couldn’t get any more gut-wrenching.
Elyria found itself on the short end of a 16-15 Division I playoff score Saturday at Stow. It was the same team that dominated the Pioneers just two weeks ago on the same field.
Stow (10-1) moves on to play Mentor next Saturday in a Division I regional semifinal, while Elyria’s season ends at 7-4.
The Bulldogs made life miserable again for Elyria’s vaunted running game — holding senior standouts Jumarr Lewis and Jordan Connell to a combined 61 yards on the ground.
But Elyria’s defense and some clutch plays from quarterback Hunter Parsh and receivers Tavon Kurtz and Eric Eisom had the Pioneers on the brink of victory. Elyria simply ran out of time on its last possession at Stow’s 34-yard line.
The Pioneers had Stow pinned at its own 1 after an interception by Jonte Pooler but the Bulldogs managed to punt the ball over the head of Elyria’s return unit, setting the final failed drive at its own 35 rather than closer to midfield.
“We were almost there, but they were tipping them away,” Elyria coach Kevin Fell said of the Pioneers’ last-ditch, desperate drive as time and the season expired. “Defensively, we played well enough to win. We just couldn’t seem to make the big play when we needed to. We couldn’t get close enough to try a field goal. We were trying to.”
“We knew it would be tougher,” Stow coach Mark Nori said of the rematch with Elyria. “I’ll say this. Every player that played in this game should be proud of themselves — both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, you have to have a winner and, fortunately, it was us.”
Elyria’s defense gave up chunks of yardage two weeks ago in a 20-7 loss to Stow.
“We were hyped about this game,” said senior linebacker Conner Kamczyc, the heart and soul of a sometimes maligned unit that played solid on Saturday. “Last time we played them, they ran the ball on us. They really beat us up the first half. This game, that’s what we focused on the whole week.”
Stow managed just 71 yards on the ground and 153 through the air but made just enough plays to come away victorious. But when Fell takes a look at the game film, it’ll hurt just the same.
It’ll hurt deep in his gut when he sees the two plays that probably cost Elyria a chance to move on. The Pioneers had a precarious 15-10 lead when they lined up to punt from their own 24 with just over six minutes left to play.
Zach Minney, installed as Elyria’s punter just last week due to Connell’s sprained ankle, shanked his kick just 12 yards, but Stow sophomore Jakob Madgar mistakenly reached for the ball and bobbled it at the 37. Elyria clearly recovered but after the officials conferred, it was determined Madgar was pushed into the ball by the Pioneers, giving possession to the Bulldogs.
“The referee said our guy blocked their guy into the ball,” Fell said. “What really hurt though was the next play when they throw the ball up there and our kid comes up with the ball but they gave it to them. That was a tough two-play turnaround.”
On that play, junior quarterback Andrew Wargo threw a bullet to Jake Flinn, but it was well-defended in the end zone by Lewis. It appeared both had possession of the ball but when Lewis came up with it, it appeared the Pioneers had dodged the bullet.
However, the side official ruled Flinn had caught it and held it long enough for the score.
“To answer your question, I came down with the ball,” Lewis said. “I guess (Flinn) had one of his hands on the ball. I don’t know what the ref saw but he called it a touchdown.”
Elyria’s last scoring drive included a couple of huge pass plays engineered by Parsh. He hit Kurtz, who caught six passes for 114 yards, with a long sideline pass worth 41 yards and he hooked up with Eisom on a crossing pattern to get a first down on fourth-and-7 to set up Lewis’ 1-yard TD with 10:34 to go.
“We wanted this ‘W’ really bad,” said Kurtz, who missed the first Stow game due to suspension. “I want to thank my (football) brothers for supporting me through this whole year.”
Fell was philosophical about the outcome. He’s been in the game 37 years. A blocked extra-point early on usually comes back to bite you.
“If we don’t miss the extra point, we might still be playing,” Fell said. “It was an evenly matched game but a missed extra-point usually does hurt, especially in the playoffs.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stow 16, Elyria 15
Elyria 6 3 0 6 — 15
Stow 7 3 0 6 — 16
S — Jonte Pooler, 30 pass from Andrew Wargo (Andrew Groves kick)
E — Jacob Csizmadia, 34 pass from Hunter Parsh (kick blocked)
E — Josh Lewis, 23 field goal
S — Garrett Rigby, 37 field goal
E — Jumarr Lewis, 1 run (pass failed)
S — Jake Flinn, 37 pass from Wargo (run failed)
First downs 17 8
— by rushing 5 4
— by passing 11 4
— by penalty 2 0
Yards rushing 81 71
Yards passing 262 153
Total offense 343 204
Passes att./comp. 32/14 9/6
Intercepted by 2 1
Fumbles/lost 1/0 1/1
Penalties/yards 0/0 8/75
RUSHING — (E) Jumarr Lewis 19-40, Jordan Connell 13-21, Hunter Parsh
6-21. (S) Brian Grove 6-24, Jayson Gobble 19-48, Andrew Wargo 7-(-1).
PASSING — (E) Hunter Parsh 31-12-217-1-2, Zach Minney 1-1-16-0-0, Connell 1-1-29-0-0. (S) Andrew Wargo 6-9-153-2-1.
RECEIVING — (E) Jacob Csizmadia 2-39, Kyle Ringer 1-18, Tavon Kurtz 6-114, Eric Eisom 3-57, Lewis 1-0, Brad Schneider 1-4. (S) Pooler 1-30, Groves 1-5, Jake Flinn 2-38, Zaire Lewis 1-44, Matthew Beech 1-35.