SHEFFIELD — Elyria Catholic, and new coach Brian Fox, needed only a few seconds to get the first-game jitters out of the way.
Senior David Griffin took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, sparking a big first quarter in the Panthers’ 56-0 non-conference win at Brookside.
Griffin caught the ball on the 10-yard line near the left sideline, sprinted toward the middle, cut up the field and scored untouched. Elyria Catholic scored four touchdowns in the first quarter.
Senior Cameron Engrish threw for 320 yards and senior Leighton Banjoff carried the ball seven times for 117 as the Panthers rolled up 527 yards of offense.
The opening kickoff had an effect on both teams.
“It was big, I’m not going to lie,” Fox said. “I love kickoff returns and we practice that kickoff return a lot. It’s always great when a senior comes out and makes a play like that, and that definitely put a little air into everybody. It was awesome.”
As much as the play pumped up Elyria Catholic, it was a rude awakening for the Cardinals.
“We were kind of deflated there and it didn’t seem like we ever responded,” Brookside coach Paul Ferguson said. “That’s on me as a coach because we have to get these guys back up and ready to go after a big play against us. Big plays are going to happen and we’ve got to respond.”
Engrish threw a pair of touchdown passes to Gavin Hrobat in the first quarter before junior Jack Griffin closed out the first-quarter scoring with a 23-yard interception return.
“They came out and executed,” Ferguson said of the Panthers. “I knew they would be pretty good, but we were hoping for maybe a little more sloppy play from them because they made some mistakes in their last scrimmage.
“They didn’t make many mistakes tonight. Every time they did make a mistake, when we would have them in third-and-long, they would make a play. We just couldn’t execute.”
The Panthers’ defense was dominant as well, holding Brookside to 50 yards of offense, including minus-13 on the ground. Fox said his defense woke up in practice Tuesday.
“They were extremely disciplined,” he said. “Once everybody got their eyes right they were playing so fast, so aggressive. Tuesday’s practice was probably the most fun we’ve had because the defense came out and played downhill and aggressive.
“Everything we saw today started that day in practice.”
Senior Jack Decker, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound offensive lineman, opened the second-half scoring with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
“It was definitely a special moment for him and I know that meant a lot,” Engrish said. “He’ll never forget that, that’s for sure.”
The Panthers fell to 3-7 last year and did not get much attention heading into this season.
“That fuels our fire and gives us a big chip on our shoulder,” Banjoff said. “We want to go out there and prove everyone wrong. We aren’t going to talk, words aren’t as loud as actions, so we definitely want to go out there and show what we can do.”
Junior Connor Trockley led the receivers with four catches for 103 yards. Senior Malik Gaddy added 52 rushing yards on five carries and scored on a 45-yard burst up the middle.
Nine players caught passes from Engrish.
“Cam showed everything I knew he was going to be,” Fox said. “Cam is an extremely intelligent hard worker that has a cannon for an arm. I was excited the first time I saw him throwing because I knew he was going to be a special quarterback.
“I think this offense is tailor-made for him and he’s eating it up.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.