Elyria Catholic’s defense was active early and often in their Week 12 victory over Genoa.
The Panthers forced four turnovers in the first half and won 44-21. EC now advance to the regional semi-finals against the winner of a game between Liberty-Benton and Elmwood on November 13. This is the first time since 1987 that the Panthers have won two playoff games in one season.
Elyria Catholic added a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter for good measure. Aiden Knepshield picked up a fumble deep in Genoa and mistook it for a score.
The Panthers ended the game with seven forced turnovers.
“They are a hungry group,” said Elyria Catholic head coach Brian Fox. “Turnover doesn’t just happen. They happen when you have defense that flies, when you have 11 guys who buy into the idea that luck follows speed. Yes, we got lucky and they packed a few things, but if you don’t work hard, you’re not here for those opportunities.
The Panthers capitalized on those Genoa mistakes, starting early. Levi Ellis scored the first touchdown of the game after a poorly managed slam on a punt from deep in Genoa. Junior safety later forced a fumble that led directly to a Panthers score.
Ellis, the region’s best forward in the regular season, was injured in the second quarter and missed the rest of the game. His replacement, Tavion Thomas, did not miss a step of relief.
Thomas had an interception and ran nearly 100 yards in the win. After his choice, Thomas had to chase his teammates who were trying to put the team’s “spinning chain” on his neck. Thomas said after the game that he was just trying to get out and do his job.
“I had to go on the offensive,” he said. “I didn’t have time to wear it. But I love to wear it. I just had to go back. I just had to come in and step up, as I had to several times.
Brady Cook hit a wide-open Jack Kenneally for a touchdown that gave Elyria Catholic a 21-7 lead. Cook threw for 113 yards in the first half and ran for another 60, including a touchdown.
Cook’s first touchdown pass went to Colin Ginley on a quick screen. Ginley recovered the ball on the seven and smashed a pair of tackles before diving for the pylon.
The duo reconnected at the end of the third quarter. Cook hit Ginley over a nine-yard incline that gave the Panthers a 34-7 lead.
“Brady threw a hell of a ball and I just made a play,” Ginley said of his first score. “(Cook) played really well. He has a series of games where he has been exceptional. He was great for us.
Genoa responded to a play later with a 75 touchdown pass. The Comets added another late in the fourth quarter after Knepshield’s touchdown that ended a timing scenario with just over a minute. to play.
Elyria Catholic continues her quest to win her first regional championship since 1984 in week 13. The last time the Panthers won a regional crown, they also won a state crown, one of three in history. from their school.