ELYRIA - The Elyria Cup, soccer's version of the "Battle of Elyria," is staying at Elyria Catholic for another year, thanks to the Panthers' overpowering start.
Elyria Catholic jumped out to a 3-0 halftime advantage Saturday, then held off a fierce Elyria rally late to post a 5-2 win at Ely Stadium. Elyria Catholic improved to 4-1 on the season, while the Pioneers slipped to 2-3-1.
"This is a huge game, emotionally, for both teams," Panthers coach Mike Wisnor said. "And for Elyria, a win would make their season. For their seniors, it would make their four years. So certainly we knew that they weren't going to give it to us. We'd have to earn it."
Elyria Catholic seniors Stephen Saddler, Ryan Lutke and David Elwer took charge of the offense in the first half.
Saddler was first to find the back of the net, sending a shot from 15 yards out past goalie Tyler Ramirez at the 27:14 mark. Later, Lutke and Elwer hooked up on a goal off a throw-in, going from one side of the field to the other. Elwer took the ball on the right sideline, 30 yards out, and found Lutke on the back side of the box, where he headed a shot past Ramirez for a 2-0 lead.
Elwer added a score of his own on a breakaway which turned into a one-on-one opportunity against Ramirez from 5 yards out.
"We capitalized on our opportunities and played real well," Elwer said of his team's play. "Obviously the throw-in helped us get going, but I think that overall we did a good job taking advantage of each opportunity."
"We did what we wanted in the first half," Wisnor said. "We didn't really break through as early as we would have liked, but as far as possession control, we did what we wanted to do. Elyria played real hard, and it was a physical match. That will help us down the road when we face that type of physical play again."
Elyria Catholic continued to put the pressure on Elyria in the second half, extending its advantage to 5-0 by the midway point on goals by seniors Andy Ruiz and Vincent Faraji. Faraji, who attended Elyria City Schools growing up, was happy to get the win over his Pioneer friends.
"I love all the guys from E-High," said Faraji with a smile. "I grew up going to public school and have played with a lot of those guys all my life. We all have a lot of respect for each other, and today it was a hard-fought battle."
Elyria made things interesting in the final 16 minutes. Senior Bubby Santo Domingo thought he had broken up the Panther shutout on a goal with 16:20 left to play, but it was taken off the board on an offside call.
The Pioneers continued to fire away at Elyria Catholic's senior backup goalie, Danny Smith, finally breaking through with a score at the 8:33 mark. Pioneer senior captains Connor Mariner and Bryce Ziegman hooked up on a goal, when Ziegman headed Mariner's crossing pass into the net.
Two minutes later, Ziegman notched his second goal of the day, this time on a penalty kick, which closed out the scoring.
Despite the setback, Elyria coach Phil Mariner was happy with his team's play, especially down the stretch.
"We changed our formation there in the end, and it seemed like we just woke up," he said. "The final score was 5-2, and they (Elyria Catholic) scored all on set pieces. We practiced all week on defending those kind of set pieces, but obviously they didn't listen to all of my speeches.
"But overall, I was very proud and pleased with our play. I thought we played well in the last 15 to 20 minutes, and that's something we can build on. We played well against a very good team."
Contact John McDermott at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Catholic 5, Elyria 2
• SHOTS ON GOAL: Elyria Catholic 18, Elyria High 11.
• GOALS: (EC) Stephen Saddler, Ryan Lutke, Vincent Faraji Andy Ruiz, David Elwer. (E) Bryce Ziegman (2).
• ASSISTS: (EC) Elwer (2). (E) Connor Mariner.
• SAVES: (EC) Taylor Robinson 2, Danny Smith 1. (E) Tyler Ramirez 2, Cedric Holt, 3.
• HALFTIME: Elyria Catholic, 3-0.