EYE ON THE PRIZE

Elyria Catholic quar­ter­back Cameron En­gr­ish throws a short pass to Ga­van Hro­bat dur­ing the first quar­ter against Bay on Oct. 12. The Pan­thers topped the Rock­ets, 28-21, on a touch­down with 4 sec­onds re­main­ing to hand Bay its first loss of the sea­son and s

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fuad Shal­hout

Elyria Catholic al­ways be­lieved things would be dif­fer­ent un­der first-year coach Brian Fox.

But in or­der to prove it, it needed a sig­na­ture win.

That hap­pened on Oct. 12 at Bay in a Great Lakes Con­fer­ence bat­tle, when the Pan­thers got a 4-yard touch­down catch in the

cor­ner of the end zone by Jaret Frantz from QB Cameron En­gr­ish with four sec­onds left in a 28-21 win.

The Pan­thers (6-2) had not beaten the Rock­ets (7-1) since the fi­nal year of the West Shore Con­fer­ence in 2014 and snapped Bay’s 23-game reg­u­lar sea­son win­ning streak.

“It’s ev­ery kid’s lit­tle dream,” said Frantz, who is 6-foot-4. “The game is on the line, it’s tied and I’m tall so we schemed it up and threw a jump ball. I was in the right place in the right time. This is the big­gest game of our year. It was like a play­off game to us.”

Elyria Catholic run­ning back Leighton Ban­joff rushed for 244 yards — 122 in each half, on 34 car­ries and three touch­downs.

Ban­joff’s third TD came early in the fourth to put the Pan­thers up, 21-6. But Bay stormed back, con­nect­ing on a 44-yard touch­down to Max Showal­ter with 9:26 re­main­ing, then re­cov­ered an on­side kick and con­verted on a 6-yard rush­ing touch­down from An­drew Vev­erka with 7:57 re­main­ing. Quar­ter­back Lo­gan LaMere con­verted the two-point con­ver­sion on a roll­out.

But Ban­joff and the Pan­thers never got rat­tled. On Elyria Catholic’s fi­nal pos­ses­sion, Ban­joff had backto-back 20-yard gains, po­si­tion­ing them in­side the 5-yard line to set up the game-win­ning score.

“I can’t thank my coaches, team­mates and ev­ery­body else enough,” Ban­joff said. “All the hard work we put in from the be­gin­ning of the sea­son has paid off. I’ve put in the hard work every­day and I pushed my team­mates, and this is the out­come we get.”

Bay (7-1) rushed for 136 to­tal yards, led by Con­nor Shell’s 51 yards on 21 car­ries.

But the Rock­ets’ de­fense had no an­swer for Ban­joff and the Pan­thers’ at­tack, a de­fense that’s held op­po­nents un­der 13 points a game.

“I told our guys to just stick to­gether,” Bay coach Ron Rutt said. “We still have a shot at at least the share of the con­fer­ence and a play­off berth. And to be hon­est, this 23-game streak was get­ting stress­ful in some ways. Never will be happy that it’s over, but it was a heck of a run. Six wins two years back, 10 wins last year and then seven this year. You’ve got a num­ber of groups and teams that were in­volved in it. It was a his­tor­i­cal run and some­thing we’ll al­ways be proud of.”

The Pan­thers en­tered half­time with a 14-0 lead, get­ting 3-yard and 2-yard scores from Ban­joff.

The play call to Frantz with no time­outs left to win was the Pan­thers’ best op­tion, and coach Fox knew it.

And he also knows this win is what this pro­gram needed.

“He’s a very tall kid,” Fox said about Frantz. “He went up and made a play. This win means ev­ery­thing. You can’t call your­self one of the top teams in the con­fer­ence un­til you beat the teams that are run­ning it. And Bay is spec­tac­u­lar, they have been an in­cred­i­ble group and I don’t envy whomever plays them next week.”

RANDY MEY­ERS — THE MORN­ING JOUR­NAL

RANDY MEY­ERS — THE MORN­ING JOUR­NAL

Elyria Catholic quar­ter­back Cameron En­gr­ish hands off to Leighton Ban­joff against Bay dur­ing the first quar­ter on Oct. 12.

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