HUDSON — It’s not over.
Elyria’s playoff quest took a giant step forward Friday night as the Pioneers simply wore down the Explorers 26-16 in Northeast Ohio Conference River Division play.
“That’s the first time since I’ve been here we’ve beaten a team just as good if not better than we are,” Kevin Fell said. “But we have one left.”
That “one” is at Mayfield next Friday. Should the Pioneers win, the once slim playoff hopes will look good. Elyria is 7-2 overall and 3-1 in the NOC, and if Hudson could knock off North Royalton next week, the Pioneers would claim a piece of the Division title with the Explorers and Bears.
It wasn’t pretty.
After a near-disastrous first half, Fell and the Pioneers went back to basics. Behind its veteran offensive line and backs Jumarr Lewis and Jordan Connell, Elyria pounded the ball right down Hudson’s throat. Drives of 49 and 82 yards over 10 plays each netted touchdowns in the third quarter, and an eight-play, 47-yard drive sealed the verdict with less than two minutes left in the game.
The first half was a completely different story. Elyria’s only score came off a tipped pass that Da’Jaun Glover alertly caught in the end zone from sophomore quarterback Hunter Parsh. Turnovers and penalties plagued Elyria as it trailed 10-6 at halftime, but an interception into a stiff wind may have inadvertently turned around the game.
“After we threw the pick at the end of the half,” Fell said, “we thought maybe the conditions were just not excellent for throwing the football. We said let’s waffle down and see if we can run it. Our two running backs hung in there pretty good.”
Lewis finished with 143 yards, Connell 103 and all three Elyria TDs in the second half that saw the Pioneers gain all but 79 of their rushing total. Parsh threw only two passes after halftime – a pair of completions for 14 yards.
“Coach Hamilton (Steve, Elyria’s offensive line guru) told us we would have to carry the load,” center and captain Cody Schneider said. “The conditions were not good for passing. We knew we had to run the ball. We knew we had to open gaps. We knew we had to come off the ball.”
Schneider, guards Kyle Maassen and Darius Badford, tackles Damon Stewart and Adolph Barr and sophomore tight end Tony Schaefer gave Connell and Lewis the space needed to control the ball.
“I really felt if we could get ahead, we could win it,” Fell said. “Sometimes you can’t get ahead, but we were able to take one down there.”
Elyria, with the wind at its back, dominated the third quarter to take a 19-10 lead into the final 12 minutes. The Pioneers managed to control Hudson’s offense for the most part, even when the Explorers had the wind advantage.
The defense limited Hudson to 276 total yards. Tracy Sprinkle, Connor Kamczyc, Shawn Masterson, Zach Robinson and Trayvon Cummings all made big stops. Davonte Terry and Robinson had interceptions. Mike Church almost had one.
Elyria added five sacks to bring the total to 42 for the season.
“All week our coaches preached attitude and effort all game,” Sprinkle said. “We came out here and played with attitude and effort and got the win. Coach Fell told us (Hudson) would do some things we’d have to bounce back from. My job as a leader is to keep the defense in the game.
“We’ve got one more game to win (to see the playoffs).”
HE BIG ONE: Sprinkle and Hudson’s Ben Gedeon haven’t seen the last of each other. Sprinkle is headed to Ohio State next year, while Gedeon will play for that school up north. The Pioneers managed to unbalance the ledger Friday on Sprinkle’s behalf. Elyria won two of the three meetings when both players saw action.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.