Elida held off a last-minute effort to send the game into overtime by LCC to beat the Thunderbirds 40-33 at Spartan Stadium on Saturday night in the football opener for both schools.
After a first half in which both teams moved up and down the field and combined for 53 points, the defenses played more of a role in the second half and the fourth quarter was scoreless.
A 43-yard touchdown pass from Issac McAdams to Sam Quaintance that made it 40-33 with 1:44 left in the third quarter was the final score of the game.
Elida led 27-26 at halftime and increased the margin to eight points, 34-26, on a 21-yard TD pass from Cole Harmon to Baylen Stinson 25 seconds into the second half. LCC pulled to within a point at 34-33 on a 3-yard touchdown run by Thomas Williams.
“Defenisively we needed to calm things down a little bit in the second half, which we did a bit,” Elida coach Bill Speller said.
“We only had one scrimmage because of the situation, so we’re a little behind with things we need to clean up and have to do,” he said, referring to an auto accident that took the lives of two Elida players two weeks ago.
“”By no means was it a clean victory. We didn’t play the best we could,” he said.
LCC had a chance to tie the game late and had a pass in the end zone batted down for an incompletion with 37 seconds to play.
The Thunderbirds made that late surge without starting quarterback Anthony Venturella who left the field with his left (non-throwing) arm in a sling halfway through the third quarter. Brendan Stolly took over for Venturella with Thomas Williams also playing QB for a few plays.
“It’s a collar bone. He’s done for a while,” LCC coach Scott Palte said. “I give our kids all kinds of credit. They played with great effort. Elida is going to win a lot of football games. We just couldn’t get final score. This is something to build on. We’re going to win this kind of game by the end of the year.”
Elida started the scoring just over two minutes into the game when Harmon sprinted nine yards for a touchdown with 9:42 left in the first quarter.
That early TD was set up when Xavier Gilkey intercepted a deflected pass at LCC’s 30-yard line just 37 seconds into the game.
LCC responded with a big play when Anthony Venturella connected with Thomas Williams on a 65-yard pass with 8:23 to play in the first quarter.
The Thunderbirds went up 9-7 when a snap sailed over the head of McAdams and he was tackled in the end zone for a safety with 4:26 to play in the first quarter.
LCC added to its lead when Nikiya Williams broke a 29-yard run for a touchdown with 2:24 left in the quarter.
Elida answered with a seven-yard touchdown pass from McAdams to Harmon with 1:23 left in the first quarter. That score was set up by a 55-yard pass to Calan Henderson.
The Bulldogs’ defense struck again when Peyton Smith intercepted Venturella and took the ball back 42 yards for a touchdown to put Elida up 21-16.
A one-yard touchdown run by Harmon at 8:16 of the second quarter gave Elida a 27-16 advantage. That touchdown was set up when Harmon went 50 yards to LCC’s two-yard line.
LCC cut the lead to one point, 27-26, at halftime though on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Venturella to Thomas Williams with 4:51 left in the first half and a 35-yard field as time ran out in the half.
The two quarterbacks combined for 31 passes in the first half.
Reach Jim Naveau ata 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.