LIMA — The game was certainly worth the wait.
A capacity crowd at Spartan Stadium watched Lima Senior and Lima Central Catholic go back-and-forth and up and down the field the entire night.
Lima Senior’s offense was too much for LCC in a 49-45 high-octane victory on Thursday night at Spartan Stadium.
It marked the first-ever football meeting between the two schools.
It was the opening night for high school football.
Lima Senior took the lead to stay with an 11-play, 61-yard scoring driving to take a 42-39 advantage with 3:56 to play.
The Spartans’ Jawan Anderson swept the left side for a 3-yard TD to give the Spartans the lead.
The key play on the drive came when Lima Senior had it fourth-and-12 at the 50.
Lima Senior quarterback E.J. Cameron threw a 31-yard laser pass to Cecil Benton Jr. for a first down at the LCC 19.
“E.J. Cameron made a great play and threw it to Cecil Benton, who made another great play,” Lima Senior coach Andre Griffin said. “It was clutch. I was really excited to see it.’’
Anderson scored three plays later.
“You have to make a (defensive) play on fourth-and-12 if you want to win that game,” LCC head coach Scott Palte said. “They made the play and we didn’t that’s the ballgame.’’
Lima Senior’s defense stopped LCC on downs and Lima Senior scored again.
This time the Spartans scored on a 25-yard TD run by Cameron.
That pushed the Spartans’ lead to 49-39 with 1:24 to go.
“They have some really good athletes and give them credit for making plays,” Palte said. “They have athletes, with running back, receiver, quarterback and that’s tough to stop.
“I’m proud of our guys. We played hard in week one. We came out and battled. There were some guys on that field tonight (for Lima Senior), who I’m not sure we will see again who look like that. We had every chance to win that football game and we were right there. We couldn’t seize it and give them credit for taking it.’’
LCC scored with 25 seconds left when Nevan Stolly hit Shaun Thomas with a 13-yard pass to cut the Lima Senior lead to 49-45.
The game was jammed packed with offense, as both teams sprinted up and down the field turf to keep the crowd excited most of the night.
LCC was ground heavy, while the Spartans had a run-pass balance, which in the end wore down the T-Birds, who played the bulk of their players both ways.
“We’re a small school team and we have to play a lot of guys,” Palte said. “Our guys were playing both ways the whole time and I think they started to wear out a little bit. But we had a lot of fight and played hard. We have a lot to build on the rest of the season.’’
Cameron completed 19 of 23 for 301 yards and four TDs. He also ran for 42 yards and a score.
“He’s growing and he’s been working hard and hopefully he can take it to the next level,” Griffin said of Cameron. “He was definitely poised.’’
Spartans running back Anderson had 21 carries for 181 yards. He ran for TDs of 76 and 3 yards.
For LCC, Thomas had 211 yards on 15 carries. He had two rushing TDs, 2 and 12, and one receiving TD (13).
Rossy Moore ran for 118 yards on 16 carries with three TDs.
LCC’s Moore scored twice in a row in the second half, from 4 and 25 yards and LCC led 33-21 with 6:13 left in the third quarter.
But Lima Senior rallied back, both on the ground and in the air.
Cameron fired a 60-yard TD to Larry Ragland, in which he broke three tackles near the line.
Cameron then came back with a 61-yard TD pass to Camren Miles.
That gave the Spartans a 35-33 lead with 2:02 left in the third.
LCC nudged ahead again 39-35 on a 2-yard TD run by Moore with 8:17 to play.
That capped off an impressive 11-play, 70-yard by the T-Birds.
At halftime, Lima Senior led 21-20.
LCC ran out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Lima Senior scored the next 21 points to pull ahead 21-14 in the second.
The Spartans took a 21-20 lead into halftime.
Lima Senior’s first drive ended when quarterback Cameron was picked off by LCC’s Quintel Peoples at the Lima Senior 45.
The T-Birds then went 45 yards in five plays for a score.
Thomas took off for 14 yards on his first carry.
Four plays later, Thomas turned the right corner and was untouched for a 2-yard TD.
When Thomas ran the two-point conversion over, the T-Birds led 8-0 with 9:23 left in the first quarter.
LCC went back down the field on the ground on its next drive, one that gobbled up 45 yards on seven plays.
Thomas bounced an inside run to the outside for a 12-yard TD run to give LCC a 14-0 lead with 5:44 left in the first quarter.
Lima Senior showed its ground game, as well, in the first half.
Anderson turned the right corner, then cut back left and blazed his way for a 76-yard TD run.
That capped a two-play, 83-yard drive and brought Lima Senior within 14-7 with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
After a Lima Senior defensive stop, the Spartans went to the air.
Spartans quarterback Cameron hit Ragland with a 19-yard TD strike to tie the game at 14 with 9:10 left in the second quarter.
The Spartans were preventing the T-Birds from running wide and got the ball back again.
This time Lima Senior went 58 yards in five plays for a 27-yard TD pass from Cameron to a wide-open Benton Jr.
That pushed the Spartans ahead 21-14 with 5:40 left in the first half.
The T-Birds got within 21-20 on a 49-yard interception return for a TD by Quintel Peoples.
It was Peoples’ second interception of the game.
By the half, Anderson had run for 147 yards on 11 carries. Thomas had 79 yards on 11 carries with two TDs.
In all, it was a festive opening night for football before a packed house at the stadium in downtown Lima.
“This meant everything (to the town),” Griffin said. “When I went around the city this morning, I went to breakfast and got my hair cut, it was the talk of the town. It was like one of those documentaries where the whole city shut down at 5 o’clock and met at Spartan Stadium. … It was fun for the city.’’
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.