ELYRIA — For the first time in 90 years, Elyria High celebrated the opening of a new stadium.
Avon Lake spoiled the party.
The Shoremen took control almost from the minute they walked in from the bus in handing the Pioneers a 42-15 defeat Friday to open the bright, beautiful Ely Stadium in front of a sellout crowd on a gorgeous August night.
Avon Lake coach Matt Kostelik said the focus wasn’t on ruining the housewarming.
“More along the lines of ‘Hey, they’re going to be amped up and you guys just have to keep your heads on straight. Play disciplined football, get after them and take that part of the game out of it,’” he said.
Avon Lake certainly did that.
It took the opening kick and methodically moved down the field. Senior tailback Konner Riggs had gains of 4 and 17 yards on his first two carries. Quarterback Jack Mikolich hit passes for 15 and 16 yards to Luke Fedders and Nathan Sidlowski to put the ball at the 16-yard line.
After a loss of 1 by Riggs, Mikolich hit Fedders again for 9 yards and Riggs carried twice to the 2, setting up fullback Matt Sanders for the first score of the night. It took just 3:35 off the clock and the Shoremen were off and running.
Elyria became its own worst enemy from there. The Pioneers turned the ball over three times and had two straight punts blocked in helping the Shoremen to a 21-0 lead after one and 28-0 at the half.
Avon Lake’s senior offensive line kept the heat off Mikolich and opened holes for Riggs. Jackson Armbrecht, Ryan Beckman, Noah Welsh, Tyler Barone and R.J. Prusha did the dirty work upfront.
Defensively, Avon Lake kept the Pioneers’ speedy receivers and quarterback Jermele Nolen in check most of the night.
“All of our D-linemen really stepped up and did a great job,” Kostelnik said. “The secondary — we had a couple blown coverages — but we were able to kind of fend them off. We got good pressure. We’ve got to clean that up and clean up our tackling. I wasn’t satisfied with where we were at.”
Avon Lake’s defensive front rotation was led by Barone, Beckman, Welsh, Christian Cabot and Owen Callesen along with juniors Zak Kovacs and Jack McCrum. They hurried Nolen all night, and although he made some plays with his arm and feet, it wasn’t enough.
“It means a lot to us,” said Sanders, a senior linebacker who was all over the field. “We’re a young team on defense, a little more experience on offense. We owe it all to the coaches.”
Kovacs returned a fumble to the 15-yard line to set up a score. Cabot blocked a punt with Ryan McCrum recovering. Josh Vlasak recovered the other that was actually blocked by an Elyria lineman trying to hold off the rush.
“I’ve been involved and coaching football for 25 years,” Elyria coach Sean Arno said. “I can’t remember ever having two punts blocked — two in a game. That’s five turnovers in the first half. (Avon Lake) only sustained one drive.”
To Elyria’s credit, it didn’t quit.
Nolen managed to get the ball to speedy Adaveon Drummer in front of Avon Lake’s sideline, and Drummer outraced the Shoremen for an 85-yard score. On Avon Lake’s next series, senior Ty Allgood snuck in to block a punt and managed to chase it down in the end zone to close the margin to 35-15 thanks to Nolen’s 2-point conversion pass to Izaiah Thomas.
“I got to score my first varsity touchdown,” Allgood said. “On the (previous) punt, I laid out and almost got it. The next one, I laid out, got it and scored the touchdown.”
That made Kostelnik bring his starters back in and they added another touchdown. The game ended with Avon Lake at the Elyria 1-yard line, but the Shoremen let the clock run out without adding salt to the wound.
“That’s a small victory,” Arno said. “Too many mistakes, guys.”
Elyria’s Lewis Aguilar played well on defense. Noah France had an interception. Allgood also recovered a fumble.
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