ELYRIA — It’s been 21 years since Elyria High last played Marion Harding in football.
But it may want to consider keeping the Presidents on the schedule.
Unbelievable best describes the latest Pioneer assassination of the Prexies, 35-14, at Ely Stadium Friday night.
• Elyria ran back two fumbles for touchdowns — 88 yards by 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior Matt Arnold and 81 yards by
6-2, 210-pound junior Travis Noble. Those are the two longest fumble returns for touchdowns in Elyria’s 114-year football history.
• Darian Robbins broke loose for TD runs of 85 and 74 yards – the last sealing the verdict with 1:36 remaining. Robbins finished with 214 yards, the 24th Pioneer to rush for better than 200 yards.
• Elyria has beaten Marion 25 straight times and leads the all-time series 27-6-1.
• Steve Hamilton picked up his first win as coach of the Pioneers.
“You don’t see that very often in a football game,” Hamilton said of the long scoring plays, “but I’ll tell you what. It just feels so good to get a ‘W.’ I feel good for our kids.”
Hamilton simplified things this week in practice and his young team responded. Robbins, who had just 11 yards on the ground against Midview in a disappointing opener last week, started and finished strong Friday. His first run from scrimmage picked up 24 yards and his 85-yard score came on Elyria’s first play of its second possession to put the Pioneers in front for good.
“Very good feeling,” Robbins said. “Super good feeling. You got to thank the O-line. They stepped up. We had some problems last week but we corrected that during the week. The O-line is going strong right now.”
Greg Shotwell’s 15-yard score put Elyria in front 14-0 after Tyler Almeida’s extra point with 7:21 left in the first half, but Marion wasn’t about to quit. It had the ball on a first-and-goal from Elyria’s 5-yard line when Arnold scooped up a bad exchange in the backfield and never looked back. Almeida’s kick made it 21-0 with 3:49 to go before intermission.
Marion marched right back and capped its drive with a 25-yard run by Mason Lindsey to slice the margin to 21-7 at halftime. The Presidents appeared to be right back in business as they drove to Elyria’s 14-yard line, but Noble picked up Quinton Faggs’ bobble and raced the distance. Almeida’s kick made it 28-7.
“I’ve never seen a game where you had two turnovers run back 80 yards like that,” said Marion coach Heath Hinton. “Turnovers kill you. It’s unfortunate for our players. They’re playing hard and executing and then fumble.”
“I saw the ball pop out,” Noble said. “I ran to it and I saw the quarterback (Kyle Oney) try to cut me off at the sideline so I cut back and kept running.”
Marion ran the ball effectively — 305 yards and 16 first downs on the ground — but Elyria made plays when it needed them. Greg Shotwell, Vaughn Sprinkle, Myke Martin, Noble and Arnold made big hits and big plays on defense.
“I’ll do what the coaches tell me,” said Shotwell, who saw his first action on the offensive side. “We tried to focus on the attitude of our team. We had to represent Elyria like it should be represented.”
“Elyria’s better than us athletically,” said Hinton. “They’re well-coached. Their players played hard and never gave up.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE: Hamilton made his first win a memorable one. “I’ve never seen that in my 13 years of coaching,” he said. “We kept it simple this week and the kids responded. That was great for us.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.