ELYRIA — Big plays by Huron and big mistakes by Elyria Catholic. It’s no secret why the Tigers were able to claim a 39-28 season-opening victory Friday at Knights of Columbus Field.
Elyria Catholic (0-1) was flagged for 13 penalties that were accepted (16 overall), turned the ball over four times, gave up a pair of punt returns for touchdowns in one period and failed to take advantage of most opportunities the Tigers (1-0) presented them.
They also could not tackle Huron senior quarterback Cody Thompson.
Thompson scored on a 65-yard run and a 67-yard punt return. He threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Bogden to open the scoring and also intercepted two passes and recovered a Panthers fumble.
He punted six times for a 49-yard average.
His long touchdown run came on the first play from scrimmage after the Panthers had tied the game at 7 late in the second quarter.
“(Cody Thompson) is special,” Elyria Catholic coach Mike Polevacik said. “The touchdown run he had, after we had finally gotten the game back, we had a couple of kids off the field because it was hot. I didn’t see him take any plays off. Not only is he talented, he has a relentless work ethic. He just doesn’t stop.”
Thompson accepted a full scholarship to play receiver at the University of Toledo next season.
The game was tied at 13 at halftime before the Tigers broke it open during a brutal third quarter for the Panthers. Not only did they give up a pair of punt returns for touchdowns, they had six players go down with cramps and were penalized four times for holding.
“It was hard with the holding penalties,” Polevacik said. “(The officials) told us they were going to enforce it before the game and I don’t feel like they picked on us. They were calling it both ways and we just did not move our feet on the offensive line.
“We could never pull away. The one or two times we had a slight lead we put ourselves in bad positions with penalties — first-and-24 or second-and-25. It was ridiculous.”
The Panthers pulled within five points with 10:24 remaining in the game on a 10-yard Justin Rankin touchdown run, but Thompson put the game away with a 7-yard run with 3:13 left.
Rankin finished with 131 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Holley, who missed six games last year with a broken leg, had impressive numbers in his first game back for the Panthers. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 302 touchdowns, but had three interceptions, including one when he threw late over the middle in the red zone.
“It was nice to see Jeremy back out here, throwing the ball and throwing some touchdowns,” Polevacik said. “Some other aspects of our game let us down but he had a nice game. That’s something we can build off.”
Holley wasn’t satisfied.
“I’m pretty upset we lost tonight,” he said. “It’s nice to be back on the field, but it would have been much better to start with a win. We really didn’t give ourselves much of a chance to win tonight. We shot ourselves in the foot, but I also have to give credit to Huron. They played a great game.”
The Panthers can’t afford to dwell on the loss. They host Division I Elyria on Friday.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves because we have a great opponent next week,” Polevacik said. “We have to work harder and play harder, that’s for sure.”
Contact Mike Perry at (440) 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.