FREMONT — It had been nearly 30 years since Elyria High made the hour-long trip down the turnpike to take on Fremont on the football field.
It may be another 30 before the Pioneers want to go back after the non-conference opener Friday.
The Pioneers had to come from 12 points down to salvage a 28-19 win over the Little Giants, a one-time conference rival.
“We’re a young football team and we tried to keep our composure,” said coach Kevin Fell, who won his fourth straight opener with Elyria. “It got to be a pretty physical game at the end and (Fremont) scared us to death. Every play, they could go. First game, you’re going to get some goofy stuff.”
Fremont had control early when it scored on back-to-back plays — kicking a 23-yard field goal and coming right back on the next play with an interception return by Jeffery Barnett to put the Pioneers in a 10-point hole with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
“We were down 19-7 and really hadn’t done anything,” said Fell, recalling Fremont’s 68-yard scoring strike from quarterback Jalen Slick to Russ Yeast with 7:35 remaining in the third quarter. “Our quarterback (senior Hunter Parsh) finally settled down. We knew he would.”
The Pioneers managed to keep the wheels on the wagon and eventually wore down Fremont with their defense and physical play.
“Elyria’s a good football team,” said Craig Yeast, Fremont’s first-year coach. “They just continued to fight. We’ve got to learn to win. Right now, Elyria knows how to win.”
Parsh finished with 304 passing yards, hitting senior Brad Schneider for a pair of scores and finding junior Kyle Ringer and senior Brendon Koziura with key strikes to keep possession. Ringer made two terrific catches in traffic on successive fourth downs to help Elyria run out the clock.
“Our line blocked for Hunter, and he just tried to get me the ball,” Ringer said. “I just have to go and get it. It doesn’t matter who’s around me.”
Schneider credited Elyria cornerback Mike Church, a three-year letterman.
“It helps when you go against the best DB in LorainCounty every day in practice,” Schneider said. “And I love having Hunter as my QB. We’ve been together four years now.”
Sophomore Chris Atkinson shook off an early fumble to help seal the win on the ground late. He finished with 84 yards on 23 carries behind Elyria’s veteran line. Atkinson scored twice in the fourth quarter, the first giving Elyria its first lead and the second buttoning up the victory.
“We came out pretty slow,” Parsh said. “We’ll have to pick it up once we start playing some tough teams.”
Elyria’s defense was very good. Yes, it gave up the 68-yard pass play, but that was more of a great play by Yeast, the sophomore son of the coach. For the most part, Fremont struggled to sustain its offense.
Mike Smosny, the replacement for two-time All-Ohio linebacker Connor Kamczyk, tipped a Slick pass into the arms of Shamar Lucky to stop one Fremont drive and Orlando Scott covered a fumble to stop the Little Giants from scoring and possibly setting up an onside kick late.
“I knew if I caught it, it was a pick-six,” Smosny said. “I tipped it, I looked back and (Lucky) caught it. We figured the defense was going to win us this game.”
Elyria sported red helmets for the first time since the early 1960s. The Pioneers have worn white helmets with the red “E” on the side for almost the entire time since, the exception coming in Darrell Mayne’s two-year reign in 1996-97 when Elyria wore black helmets.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.