ELYRIA — Mayfield had played spoiler to Elyria’s football fortunes the last two seasons, handing the Pioneers losses that derailed hopes of a playoff berth.
For at least the first 14 minutes Friday night, it looked like the Wildcats were going to make it three straight.
But three straight second-quarter touchdowns turned the tide in Elyria’s favor during a wild first half, and the Pioneers dominated the second half en route to a 38-28 Northeast Ohio Conference victory at Ely Stadium.
“It wasn’t so much (the past two years), it was that we knew Mayfield was a really good football team,” Elyria coach Kevin Fell said. “They have excellent speed and they’re going to give everybody trouble — they do every year. They beat us the last two years.
“We played better defense in the second half and we were able to control the ball. And we made some big plays in the first half to get us out of that hole. That’s really when the game kind of rolled away. We were lucky to come out at halftime ahead and alive, I think.”
Elyria (5-0, 1-0) rallied from deficits of 14-3 and 21-10 — the latter after a 23-yard pass from Mario Monastero to Deville Whitfield two plays into the second quarter – to remain unbeaten. Monastero completed 20 of 39 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns.
Jordan Connell, who had a big day running the ball, appeared to score on an 80-yard kickoff return following the opening score, but he was ruled out of bounds on the 15. Josh Lewis connected on a 30-yard field goal to put the Pioneers on the board.
Jumarr Lewis broke through with a 50-yard touchdown run following Anthony Canganelli’s second score to cut the deficit to 14-10. Lewis led all rushers with 145 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
Following Mayfield’s third touchdown, the game changed. Keyed by a 6-yard run by Lewis on a fake punt at the Elyria 32, the Pioneers answered with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Connell’s 50-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 21-17 and seemed to swing momentum squarely in Elyria’s favor.
A big interception by Mike Church at the Elyria 6 thwarted a potential Mayfield scoring drive. Four plays later, on a third-and-9, Eric Eisom turned an innocent screen pass into a game-breaking 67-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Parsh. Holder Zach Minney found Lewis in the end zone on a fake extra-point kick to give the Pioneers a 25-21 lead with 5:19 left in the half.
“We had to make a couple of adjustment after the first couple of series because they were shifting over away from our backs, so we had to come back to the weak side,” Fell said. “I tell you, that’s when we really started to get it. We got three or four dive touchdowns there just running away from their pressure.
“It’s a good thing we stumbled into that because we weren’t moving the ball well. That was a big win for us.”
Elyria caught another break when a Wildcats screen pass was ruled a lateral and Zach Robinson had the presence of mind to fall on the ball at the Mayfield 25. Four plays later, after a Lewis touchdown run was called back due to holding, Lewis got a 19-yarder that counted to give Elyria a 32-21 halftime lead.
“We just have that special connection,” Lewis said of his chemistry with Connell. “There’s no favoritism or jealousy. We just come in and work hard. If Jordan gets his number called, I’ll do my best to block for him and get him in the end zone. If I get my number called, it’s the opposite. We just work hard and make something of ourselves.”
Connell wound up with 24 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns. He and Lewis were the only Pioneers to carry the ball, combining for 257 rushing yards on 47 carries.
“It’s just the perfect scenario,” Connell said. “We don’t hate on each other. He blocks for me and I block for him. We just do us, and whatever happens happens.”
Elyria put away the game by dominating the time of possession in the second half. Connell added his second touchdown on a 4-yard run, capping an 11-play, 42-yard drive late in the third quarter that gave the Pioneers a 38-21 lead.
Parsh shrugged off a slow start to complete 12 of 20 passes for 197 yards. He went 8-for-9 for 147 yards during the 22-point second quarter.
“As good as Mayfield is, we’ve got five more teams just like ’em coming up,” Fell said. “We’ve just got to take them one game at a time. You can’t win them all until you win the first one, so we’re going to hang in there and see what happens. But it’s great to be 1-0 in the conference.”
TAKE THE YARDS: One key moment may have been after Connell’s 50-yard touchdown run. Josh Lewis’ kickoff went out of bounds, but instead of taking the ball at the Mayfield 35, the Wildcats made Elyria rekick from 5 yards back. This time, Lewis hit a deeper kick that was only returned to the Mayfield 32. Church’s interception came five plays later.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.