The opening week of the 2007 Ohio high school football season couldn’t have ended in better fashion. In the finale of the 10th Annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown, Cincinnati Elder edged West Chester Lakota West 21-14 in a game that came down to the final minute at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
Matt Natali was on hand and has the details.
CINCINNATI – The opening week of the 2007 Ohio high school football season couldn’t have ended in better fashion.
In the finale of the 10th Annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown, Cincinnati Elder edged West Chester Lakota West 21-14 in a game that came down to the final minute at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
With the scored knotted 14-14, Elder faced a fourth down and long situation on its own 34 and elected to punt with just under a minute to play.
Kyle Rudolph lined up to punt but there was some confusion on Lakota West’s side of the ball with 12 players on the field and no players back to return the punt. The ball was snapped to Rudolph and he took off running with Lakota West’s punt return team not ready for the play.
Rudolph sprinted for a 29-yard gain putting the Panthers on the Lakota West 37 with a fresh set of downs.
“Our guys did a great job getting onto the field and getting set up,” Rudolph said. “I looked up the field and didn’t see anyone back to return and as I was getting ready to drop (the punt) I saw everyone was running down the field. I tucked it and started to take off running down the field. I got a couple great blocks and happened to get to the outside and just made the best I could out of that situation.
“It was just a punt and I saw everyone take off up the field and I tucked and ran,” the Notre Dame tight end recruit added. “It was just off the top of my head.”
On the next play, Elder ran an end-around to wide receiver Nick Olthaus and he raced all 37 yards to the end zone narrowly escaping the Lakota West defense.
The point after gave Elder the 21-14 lead for good and the Panthers first win of the season.
“That was a crazy game,” Elder head coach Doug Ramsey said. “I felt like we were in complete control at halftime and in the second half I felt like nothing went our way. We could have just folded up but we held on.
“We made a couple plays at the end and got a big win.”
It appeared as though Elder was going to run away with the game leading 14-0 at halftime. Elder flexed its defensive muscle keeping the Firebirds out of the end zone and holding them to only 83 yards of offense.
But it was a tale of two halves as Lakota West came out in the second half and controlled the rest of the game.
LB Jake Odom picked off Elder quarterback Johnny Groene on the Panthers first possession of the half giving the Firebirds the ball on the Elder 27. They capitalized on the turnover scoring in five plays capped off by an 8-yard TD strike from Taylor Breen to senior receiver Bakari Bussey.
The point after cut Elder's lead in half 14-7.
On Elder’s next possession, Groene was picked off again by defensive back Matt Foor but after two holding penalties and a block in the back penalty on the possession, Lakota West was forced to punt.
The Lakota West defense wasn’t finished, though, recovering a Dequone Wright fumble on the Elder 33 but went three-and-out and was forced to punt.
Following an Elder punt on its next possession, Lakota West took over on its own 20 with 10:23 left in the game. The Firebirds wasted no time marching down the field and faced a second down and goal situation on the Elder 5
Breen took the snap and scrambled towards the end zone making a leaping dive across the goal line putting another TD on the board for Lakota West.
The point after tied the game 14-14 with eight minutes left in the game.
On Lakota West’s final possession before Elder put the game away, the Firebirds had an opportunity to take the lead on a 52-yard Anthony Milano field goal attempt but the ball sailed wide left and the Panthers took over and orchestrated their final scoring drive.
The Elder defense held Lakota West to 270 yards of total offense.
“I think we have a chance to be a good defense,” Ramsey said. “There was one drive where I thought they had the best of us but I thought most of the night our defense controlled their offense.”
Groene led Elder on 12-of-18 passing for 112 yards with the two INTs and a 1-yard TD run in the first quarter.
Elder had 208 yards rushing paced by junior Nicholas Gramke with 106 yards on 21 carries.
Receiver Josh Jones had four catches for 77 yards including a 32-yard TD on fourth down late in the second quarter to give Elder a 14-0 lead.
Breen finished 14-of-19 passing for 151 yards and the TD on the ground for Lakota West and the scoring strike to Bussey. He also tallied 52 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Bussey led all Firebirds receivers reeling in five catches for 57 yards the TD in the third quarter.
Marcus Hicks had four catches for 45 yards
“I thought our second half effort was outstanding,” Lakota West head coach Larry Cox said. “The defense came out and they started to have a belief in each other and (fed) off each other and I thought that was a big turning point.
“Offensively, we were able to get our ground game going in the second half. And this is a brand new offense trying to evolve so there is a lot of positives there. We didn’t turn the ball over once. So, your first time in the shotgun, no-huddle offense we did pretty good. That is a positive.”
Elder (1-0) is scheduled to take on Charlotte (N.C.) Independence in week two in the Third Annual Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge. Independence boasts the longest current winning streak in the country having won 109 straight games. The game will kick off at 7:45 p.m. at Nippert Stadium.
The Panthers participated in last year’s Challenge falling to perennial national power New Concord De La Salle (Calif.) 56-38.
Lakota West (0-1) will play Lebanon at home in week two.