Jacob Farley of Firelands returns an interception in the fourth quarter against Vermilion. DAVID RICHARD / CHRONICLE
VERMILION — Firelands held off Vermilion at the end, but it was the beginning that made the difference.
Sailors’ all-conference quarterback Seth Hurd, a three-year starter, was lost for the season with a broken right ankle on the team’s fourth play from scrimmage in the Falcons’ 21-19 non-conference win.
Hurd scrambled for 10 yards down the right sideline on fourth-and-5, and when Firelands senior safety Matt Kovach’s tackle carried them out of bounds, Hurd’s right foot was pinned underneath their bodies.
Senior Jonah Pfeil replaced Hurd at quarterback, but couldn’t get anything going through the air. The Sailors (2-1) ended the game with just 19 passing yards.
“I thought once Jonah got his feet wet the guys started responding to him,” Vermilion coach Brett Colahan said. “Our line blocked well and the running game was still there, but we got into a situation where we had to throw it a little bit.
“He’s still got to get his feet a little more wet.”
Senior quarterback Blake Ruffner rushed for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Falcons (2-1). He also threw for 101 yards, but it was his defense on Pfeil that was his biggest challenge.
After Hurd went down, Firelands coach Ryan O’Rourke moved Ruffner to middle linebacker and had him spy Pfeil, following the backup quarterback on every play.
Pfeil ended the game with 21 rushing yards on 11 carries.
“It was great for me and put me in a great challenge,” Ruffner said. “Jonah Pfeil, no doubt, is a great athlete. He’s quick, he can move and he’s fast. It was great competition for me. I loved it.”
Pfeil opened the scoring when he returned a Ruffner fumble 56 yards. The Sailors missed the extra point, however, and when Ruffner crashed in from the 1-yard line late in the first half, Firelands took the lead on Alex Brill’s extra point.
Ruffner added a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to increase the lead to 14-6.
Vermilion’s Davis McDaniel pulled Vermilion closer with a 2-yard run, but Pfeil was stopped short of the goal line on the potential tying 2-point conversion try.
The score remained 14-12 until late in the third. Ruffner had to head to the bench for a play with leg cramps and O’Rourke sent sophomore Jacob Farley into the game for a play at quarterback.
His only snap resulted in a 75-yard touchdown pass to Alex Angle.
“I started the season as the starting quarterback, then Blake came in and he does a beautiful job,” Farley said. “If Blake goes down, I’m ready and confident I can do it.
“I threw to Alex Angle, and he’s been my favorite receiver since fourth grade. I trust him and he made the play. We’ve done it thousands of times in practice.”
The Sailors rallied late. Pfeil capped a 60-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Angle came up with the onside kick to seal the win for the Falcons.
“It feels really good. Any time you can win a rivalry game it’s a big deal,” O’Rourke said. “It was an ugly game with turnovers on both sides, but any time you are able to pull out a rivalry win it’s huge.”
Colahan liked how his team fought until the final gun.
“It was two good teams going at it out there,” he said. “There were some hard hits and I thought our kids played their hearts out. We came up short.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firelands 21, Vermilion 19
Firelands 7 7 7 0 — 21
Vermilion 6 6 0 7 — 19
V -- Jonah Pfeil, 56 fumble return (kick failed)
F -- Blake Ruffner, 1 run (Alex Brill kick)
F -- Ruffner, 1 run (Brill kick)
V -- Davis McDaniel, 2 run (run failed)
F -- Alex Angle, 75 pass from Jacob Farley (Brill kick)
V -- Pfeil, 5 run (Cavan Leonardo kick)
First downs 14 15
— by rushing 11 11
— by passing 3 1
— by penalty 0 3
Yards rushing 158 180
Yards passing 176 19
Total offense 334 189
Passes att./comp. 22/8 14/5
Intercepted by 1 1
Fumbles/lost 2/2 5/2
Penalties/yards 10/105 3/15
RUSHING — (F) Blake Ruffner 25-140, Donald Crawford 12-21, Braeden Casper 1-4, Caden Bomback 3-(-7). (V) Davis McDaniel 9-83, Jakob Koleszar 12-66, Jonah Pfeil 11-21, Seth Hurd 1-10.
PASSING — (F) Ruffner 7-21-101-0-1, Jacob Farley 1-1-75-1-0. (V) Seth Hurd 1-2-4-0-0, Pfeil 4-12-15-0-1.
RECEIVING — (F) Bomback 3-66, Casper 3-10, Alex Angle 1-75, Farley 1-25. (V) Luke Pena 3-17, Addison Painter 2-2.