EATON TWP. — It was expected to be a battle between Lorain County’s top two quarterbacks, but Elyria Catholic’s Jeremy Holley was lost for the season weeks ago and Midview’s Cody Callaway went down in the second quarter Friday night.
So the defenses waged war and it was the Middies who were able to find enough offense to come away with a 28-7 victory in a West Shore Conference showdown.
“One of my coaches came up to me after the game and told me, ‘The kids didn’t put their heads down when Cody when out … nobody whined, nobody complained,’” Middies coach Bill Albright said. “It’s something with his finger. We’re going to have to see what the doctors say (today) — he’s going to have to go to the Cleveland Clinic and have them take a look at it.
“If push came to shove, we would have put him back in the game.”
Callaway was able to hurt the Panthers (5-4, 3-3 WSC) with his legs early in the game, running nine times for 39 yards and a touchdown. He only completed two of eight passes for 19 yards before he was forced to leave.
Elyria Catholic was able to combat Callaway’s arm by taking away his top target.
“We were double-teaming (Midview receiver Eric) Lauer for sure,” Panthers coach Mike Polevacik said. “We were making it incredibly obvious. They did a great job of running the ball when they saw we were double-teaming him.
“So we stopped the double team once we saw Cody was out. No offense to their kid that came in, but Cody is a special player. So if he’s in there, you feel a lot more dangerous about him hooking up with Lauer.”
It was the Midview backups that did the Panthers in.
Brett Bartone — the starting linebacker — lined up in the backfield for injured running back David Bakos, and starting receiver Tyler Stephenson took over for Callaway late in the second quarter.
Bartone finished with a game-high 80 rushing yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, while Stephenson threw for 108 yards and hooked up with junior tight end Jack Duffner for a 53-yard score.
“Tyler Stephenson could be a quarterback for a lot of football teams in this area,” Albright said. “To me, he was the player of the game … coming on during a pressure situation and performing the way he did. Tyler doesn’t get a lot of reps in practice, so he missed a few open receivers. Obviously he’s going to get a lot of reps this week, and I think that’ll cure a lot of our ills.
“For his first time in a pressure-packed game — a game that we needed to keep our playoff hopes alive — I think he did an outstanding job.”
While the Middies (8-1, 5-1) used a slow-and-steady approach to move the ball down the field and put the ball in the end zone, the Panthers scored their lone touchdown in spectacular fashion.
On Elyria Catholic’s first play of the second half, Conner Riddell dropped back and threw a bomb down the left sideline. It appeared Midview cornerback Jared Armstrong had picked off the pass, but Joshua Pierce, who was matching Armstrong stride for stride, pulled the ball from Armstrong’s grasp and turned on the afterburners for a 71-yard score.
“I had it, it was in my hands and he stole it away from me,” Armstrong said. “I lost my balance as he caught it and I couldn’t pull him down.”
Armstrong got his revenge later in the quarter, reaching up to intercept a Riddell pass two plays after Duffner’s touchdown gave the Middies a 21-7 lead.
“That was good, it gave me a boost,” Armstrong said.
The biggest controversy in the game came shortly before halftime.
On third-and-5 from the Midview 6-yard line, Riddell rolled to the left and flipped the ball to a cutting Panther, who was unable to haul in the pass. Instead of signaling an incomplete pass, the officials ruled it a fumble and gave the ball to the Middies with just seconds left in the second quarter.
“It’s in our playbook, it was a shovel pass,” Polevacik said. “I would have felt much better if it was at least 14-3 at the half, we could have gotten some momentum. I don’t care if it was a field goal, some points on the board before the half would have been crucial.”
In the end, the mixture of Elyria Catholic players being worn down by playing both ways and trying desperate measures to get back into the game allowed Midview to put the finishing touches on the win.
“We had to lay it on the line and we had a lot prepared,” Polevacik said. “We didn’t want to go home and say we didn’t put it all on the line … I think we did.
“I can’t say enough about my kids, I think they played four tough quarters. I just think we ran into a very good and well-coached Midview team.”
DOING ENOUGH: A roar went up in the Midview locker room after the game when the players heard they had earned a spot in the Division II postseason. The results won’t be official until next week, but the Middies were ready to celebrate.
“It’s very satisfying,” Armstrong said. “After football season last year, we got together and lifted as a team, we trained, we ran, we prepared all year as one … and now we’ve gotten to the playoffs and that was one of our goals.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.