ELYRIA — When Justin Rankin was asked to ice Midview, he made sure Elyria Catholic’s lead wouldn’t melt away.
Rankin took a handoff 35 yards on second-and-10 to put the Panthers up 11 with just over two minutes left. Elyria Catholic held on for a 49-46 win against West Shore Conference rival Midview on Friday.
“It was all blocking,” said Rankin, who rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. “I only had to make a couple of moves. I had receivers blocking all the way 20 yards downfield. Our line had a great game. When our line has a great game, I have a great game.”
Midview (5-3, 3-2) trailed 28-21 at halftime, but came out and forced the Panthers to punt twice after not punting in the first half. The Middies capitalized with 14 unanswered points. First, senior quarterback Cody Callaway found Logan Bolin — who finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on five catches — for a 34-yard touchdown.
“Logan’s probably one of the best receivers on the team,” said Callaway, who finished 13-for-31 with 266 yards and four touchdowns. “We had Eric (Lauer) last year and then Logan kind of stepped up and filled the role for No. 10. He’s a great player and makes big-time plays for us. He’s a great kid to have to throw balls to.”
The Middies took their first lead since scoring on the first drive when Callaway hit Brett Zupancic for a 9-yard touchdown on a bubble screen with 11:53 left in the game.
Rankin gave the Panthers (5-3, 4-1) a spark with a 65-yard kickoff return to the 30-yard line. But Elyria Catholic managed only 8 yards on three plays. That’s when coach Mike Polevacik decided to dial up a 22-yard pass for the end zone. Jeremy Holley dropped a perfect throw to Conner Riddell, and the Panthers tied the game at 35.
“When you’re playing for it all you got to be able to wager it all,” Polevacik said. “We gamed up that they would probably sell out to stop Justin, so we threw it. Holley made a superstar throw and Riddell made a superstar catch. You almost felt the wind go out of their sails. I felt we sucked the momentum back.”
Callaway’s first seven passes fell incomplete, but Midview rode a strong running game and an extra 15-yard penalty to the end zone on the opening drive. Zupancic accounted for 23 yards and Callaway tacked on 17, including the 7-yard score.
“It was a little different playing on grass,” Callaway said. “We came out at halftime and made some changes offensively, disguised coverage a little bit more defensively.”
An odd series of events had Midview scratching its head late in the second quarter. On the first play of the Panthers’ drive, Rankin scored from 83 yards. But the referee signaled a hold on the Panthers. After a conference, the officials decided the foul was against the Middies and the Panthers took a 28-14 lead at the 3:02 mark.
“I asked them what was the penalty and they couldn’t tell me,” Polevacik said.
Midview shook off the bad break and got the score back with an 80-yard drive to end the half. Callaway found Zac Wilson from 27 yards.
The game had large implications in the hunt for the postseason.
Midview entered ninth in Division II, Region 4. While its final two opponents — Lakewood and Berea-Midpark — only have four combined wins, both are Division I schools and victories would bring the most level-one points.
“If we beat them, we still have a small chance,” Callaway said. “This week the team is going to practice as hard as they’ve ever practiced. I’m going to try to do a good job of getting the whole team to step up and win these two games.”
The Panthers entered 13th in Division V, Region 16, and will get a big boost. Elyria Catholic has North Ridgeville (Division II, 4-4) and Rocky River (Division III, 3-5) and will likely need to win both to ensure a spot in the playoffs.
“The work’s definitely not over,” Holley said. “We’re going to celebrate this one tonight, but we have North Ridgeville next week. We can’t celebrate for too long because we have a lot more work to do.”
LAST LAUGH: Riddell finished with three catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly he has the added bonus of getting the last laugh against Midview. The senior spent sixth through eighth grade in the Midview school system. “This is bittersweet,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this game since Day 1. We had to get back at Midview and we wanted to get back at Avon. We finally pulled it out and brought it home.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.