ELYRIA - Revenge came swift for Elyria High on Friday night at Knights of Columbus Field in front of an estimated crowd of nearly 4,000.
Had it not been for an inadvertent whistle and a late first-half flurry, who knows what turns the game may have taken. But in the end, the bottom line was simple: Elyria (3-0) was too deep and too quick for a game Panther team.
The Pioneers came away with a decisive 37-14 victory in Round 2 of what people in the city simply call "The Game."
Unlike last year when EC (2-1) took control early and fended off Elyria's rally late in the first half with a gutsy
fourth-down touchdown play, it was Elyria's turn to dodge the proverbial bullet. A muffed punt appeared to put EC in business, but the play was waved off as a "do-over" due to an inadvertent whistle with 11:01 remaining in the second quarter and Elyria in front 10-0. EC could have had the ball inside Elyria's 20-yard line but instead had to rekick.
"All week long we knew (Elyria) was a darn good team," said EC coach Mike Polevacik. "We knew we had to make little things happen. When the little things didn't happen and a break like that, we would have been on about the 15.
"We can't make excuses. E-High played their tails off and kicked our butts."
"(EC) just didn't have the quickness to match up with us," said Elyria coach Kevin Fell. "They were strong. They were physical - the quarterback (Jeremy Holley) and running back (Joe Dempsey) are tremendous. Defensively, they had a couple kids that would knock your head off. We just outquicked them."
Elyria quarterback Dustin Stolarski had waited for his chance to avenge last year's 56-35 loss. He did the job, running in Elyria's first touchdown and hooking up with Dan Ratliff and Demetrius Walton for two scoring passes. He threw for a school-record 396 yards.
"You have no idea," Stolarksi said when asked about motivation from last year. "To look up and see a 37-14 score is amazing. I've been waiting for it ever since last year."
Stolarski, as he's done through three games, spread the ball around. He targeted five receivers, hitting Ratliff eight times, Walton six and Da'Jaun Glover and Jumarr Lewis with four each. Zack Cook added one catch.
"They were dropping the defenders on us," said Stolarski. "They were afraid of our speed all night. We checked down all night. No one was on our receivers and it was an easy 15-20 yards downfield."
"We're not a selfish team," said Lewis, who capped the scoring with a 38-yard run of the old Statue of Liberty play in the third quarter. "We love to block for each other. We're a family. Our motto is 'Together as one.'"
Elyria's young offensive line, with just one senior starter (Tad France), provided Stolarski with enough time to pick apart the Panthers defense.
On the other side, Elyria's defense made its presence felt all night, particularly the front five. The Pioneers hurried sophomore quarterback Holley into a pair of interceptions and sacked him five times. Holley still wound up with 178 yards and one huge scoring toss to Jordan Altpater for 91 yards to break Elyria's scoreless streak with 2:56 left in the first half. The Pioneers hadn't given up a point all year.
It was at that juncture that Elyria seized control, rolling 80 yards in just four plays. And after Walton intercepted Holley with just 36 seconds left in the half, the Pioneers scored again on Lewis' 3-yard run set up by a 41-yard pass play to Glover.
"Demetrius got a pick," Fell said. "We answered the touchdown and it gave us confidence to keep playing. We were pretty sharp offensively. We were in control most of the time."
"All week I talked about making it a fight," Polevacik said. "We couldn't. We couldn't catch them. They executed their offense right behind us. They did a great job."
Elyria's front five on defense was solid. Junior end Tracy Sprinkle and tackle Jared Williams were in Holley's face all night.
"We came after him as much as we could every play," Sprinkle said. "It was a weird feeling giving up that first score, but we kept our head in the game. We told each other on the sideline it was only one play. They made one big play."
"We've been preparing especially hard for this game since last year," said Williams, "It's our city. We wanted to take the trophy back."
Elyria did have an a ton of penalties - 203 yards on 22 flags - but managed to keep its emotions in check. Most of the calls came when the game was decided.
SILENCE FOR LOU: There was a moment of silence prior to kickoff in honor of longtime Elyria Catholic coach and supporter Lou Rotunda, who passed away in August. The Panthers featured a picture of Rotunda on the cover of their program, a fitting tribute to the man known simply as "Mr. EC."
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.