AMHERST — Depending what side you were on, it was a wacky way to win or lose the opener.
Elyria survived four turnovers, 89 yards in penalties and the first ejection of coach Kevin Fell’s Hall of Fame career to get past Amherst 28-25 in non-conference play Friday.
“I apologized to the kids for what happened,” said Fell, who was tossed after Elyria’s bench was warned and then flagged for a sideline violation. “The last thing I told them was let the defense win the game for us, and they did.
“They threw me out of the stadium. They didn’t say I couldn’t watch. I was proud of our kids for fighting back. The defense dug in and bailed us out.”
Fell wasn’t sure why he was kicked out other than the officials heard someone on the Pioneers sideline say something that was over the top. Fell will have to sit out next week’s game at Elyria Catholic.
Amherst had the lead at halftime, 17-14, but it could have been larger.
Justin Mott picked off Elyria’s Hunter Parsh and returned the interception 76 yards for Amherst’s first score with 6:26 left in the first quarter. Parsh threw two other interceptions — both to Nathan Nunez — in the first half and the Comets cashed in on both. Amherst’s Derek Eibon ran 15 yards for a score and Jared Sciarrotta kicked a
28-yard field goal to give the Comets the lead at halftime.
“I thought our defense played outstanding,” Amherst coach Chad DiFranco said. “That’s a really talented offense and we had them on their heels. We were playing lights-out. We just never got into a rhythm offensively.”
At halftime, Elyria had outgained the Comets 270-66 and had a 14-2 edge in first downs. But Amherst had the turnovers and took advantage of 54 yards in penalties.
The Pioneers appeared to have the game in hand when Jordan Connell added two more scores to put Elyria in front 28-17 with 8:45 to play, but another turnover — this one a Connell fumble — gave life to Amherst.
With starting quarterback Anthony Eliopoulos knocked out of the game, backup Matt Kneisel rallied the Comets to another score and 2-point conversion to pull within the final score with 1:25 to play. But the onside kick was recovered by junior Brad Schneider and Elyria hung on to win.
Connell earned every one of his 132 yards on the ground against a stubborn Amherst defense that refused to wilt in the heat of the night. Connell scored all four of Elyria’s touchdowns.
“We didn’t practice good at all this week,” said Connell, whose sidekick, senior Jumarr Lewis, left the game early with a back injury. “We had to dig deep inside to come up with the win.”
“We didn’t know we would lose Jumarr right off the bat,” Fell said of his four-year starting tailback. “We didn’t play very well, but we were able to hang in there and win.”
Parsh threw for 267 yards and Elyria tacked on 172 on the ground. Senior Tavon Kurtz led the receivers with eight catches and 109 yards and Schneider and Eric Eisom turned in good efforts as well.
Amherst totaled just 139 yards, thanks to an outstanding effort by the Pioneers defense led by All-Ohio linebacker Conner Kamczyc, a former Amherst resident.
“I tried to keep everybody positive,” said Kamczyc, who was all over the field making tackles. “We were like this last year (against Amherst). It was close at halftime. We came back and did our thing. We didn’t play like we know how to, but at least we came up with the win.”
What was it? When Elyria’s Connell raced 18 yards for a score with 4:03 still to play in the first half, fans had to be confused. It took the referees a good five minutes to sort out just how to penalize the Pioneers 15 yards for a dead-ball conduct penalty. Connell’s touchdown stood and the 15 yards were taken on the ensuing kickoff.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.