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Game of the Week

Ellwood comes up short against Freedom

Ellwood City (7) vs. Freedom (20)
Written: Sep 05, 2009
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Ellwood City Lincoln High’s football team wanted to make a statement last night.

Instead, Freedom delivered the message.

The Bulldogs kept the ball for nearly the entire second half as they held on to post a 20-7 win over the Wolverines in Midwestern Athletic Conference action at Helling Stadium.

Ellwood City (0-1 conference, 0-1 overall) hoped to snap its long losing streak in front of its home crowd on opening night. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Wolverines seemed poised to have a good shot at earning their first win since Sept. 23, 2006. Alas, Freedom (1-0, 1-0) dominated possession in the second half.

“We were down 14-7 at half and it was anybody’s game. We needed to come out and make a statement in the third quarter and we didn’t. In reality, they made a statement by keeping the ball,” Ellwood City coach Don Phillips said. “We’re going to rebound and continue to work hard. It’s going to happen for us hopefully, sooner rather than later – but it’s going to happen for us.”

The Bulldogs churned through Ellwood City’s defense with bruising running backs Joe Ermi and Jeremy Herzog, along with fleet-footed quarterback Derek Lehocky.

“Everybody wants to get off on a high note. I was pretty pleased how we finished the game,” Freedom coach Mark Lyons said. “You gotta finish the game on offense. If you’re finishing games on offense, you’re going to win some games. We did that by grinding it out, eating up some clock and doing some things that we want to start developing.”

The victory was Freedom’s first since opening last year with a win over Ellwood City, which now owns a 25-game losing skid.

“Anytime you win a football game, it’s positive,” Lyons said. “But, they are not going to shut down the school, give us a day off and march us around the town because of a win. We still have a lot of work to do. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. We’ll take this win, savor it and go back to work.”

The Bulldogs, who took advantage of five turnovers in last year’s triumph, capitalized on more miscues last night. Blown assignments on defense led to Herzog’s 54-yard TD run in the first quarter. A blocked punt set up Herzog’s second score. Finally, Freedom thwarted Ellwood City’s first scoring chance by intercepting a pass in the end zone.

“Football is a game of momentum. We took some opportunities on their miscues; you need to do that,” Lyons said. “The team that doesn’t turn the ball over usually has a heck of a lot better chance of winning that football game. That’s what we stressed to our guys.”

Just before the Bulldogs blocked the punt, Ellwood City had a quality scoring opportunity, thanks to a trick play. On a double reverse, tight end Ronnie Grymes lofted a long pass to Codey Hunter. However, it appeared a Freedom defender leapt and appeared to slightly deflect the ball before it got to Hunter. As a result, he juggled and dropped what would have been a sure 73-yard TD pass.

“Codey had his hands there and the ball just tipped away,” Phillips said. “If he does make the catch, I’d like to believe that was a score because the defender did fall down. Then, who knows how the complexion of the game changes?”

The Wolverines scored with 4:23 left in the second quarter when quarterback Gino Ceriani kept the ball for a 6-yard TD run. However, Ellwood City was unable to parlay that momentum into any second-half results. The Wolverines only managed one first down in the final two quarters — it came with 52 seconds remaining in the contest.

“We have to rebound and get ready because the next games just get tougher. I think a lot of our kids grew up,” Phillips said. “We had a number of sophomores and juniors starting for the first time. We had a lot of kids out there trying to adjust to the speed of the game and the game itself and execute their assignments. I know the butterflies were there. It’s a continuation of growing pains. They need take that frustration and, hopefully, turn it into anger that this won’t happen again.”

The Wolverines received a scare when Ceriani went down with a left ankle injury with 2:20 to play in the third quarter. He limped off the field with assistance and was able to walk around on the sidelines with the aid of crutches. His condition seemed to improve late in the game as he put his put his gear back on and joined his teammates near the bench area, but he did not return to game action. Tyler Lucarelli, who started the game at quarterback originally, replaced Ceriani.

“He’ll start on rehab (today) and we’ll see how he is by next Friday,” Phillips said. “Knowing Gino, he is a tough kid and he wants to be out here. He’ll be back as quick as his body allows him.”


13 First downs 10

266 Yards Rushing 112

8 Yards Lost 47

258 Net Rushing 65

6 Passes Attempted 11

1 Passes Completed 4

0 Passes Intercepted 1

-7 Yards Passing 38

251 Total Yards 103

2-1 Fumbles-Lost 3-2

3-28.3 Punts-Average 4-25.8

3-25 Penalties-Yards 4-20

FREEDOM 7 7 0 6 — 20

ELLWOOD 0 7 0 0 —7

Scoring plays

FREEDOM — Jeremy Herzog, 54-yard run (Tanner Messing kick).

FREEDOM — Herzog, 3-yard run (Messing kick).

ELLWOOD — Gino Ceriani, 6-yard run (Scott Lewis kick).

FREEDOM — Joe Ermi, 6-yard run (kick failed).

Ellwood City 0 7 0 0 0 7
Freedom 7 7 0 6 0 20
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streak against Blackhawk 9/19/09 New Castle hosts Blackhawk 9/18/09 New Castle passes test against Indiana 9/12/09 Indiana at New Castle 9/11/09 Ellwood comes up short against Freedom 9/5/09 Freedom at Ellwood 9/4/09 Wilmington wins PIAA title! 12/15/08 'Hounds headed for Hershey 12/6/08 Wilmington vs. Aliquippa 12/5/08 Wilmington holds off Martinsburg Central 11/29/08 Wilmington edges Slippery Rock for District 10 title 11/24/08 "Down and Out" 11/19/08 New Castle outlasts Indiana in quarterfinals 11/8/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/7/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/6/08 New Castle routs Franklin Regional 11/1/08 Franklin Regional at New Castle 11/1/08 Laurel wins, but not enough 10/25/08 Shenango at Laurel 10/25/08 New Castle routs Ambridge 10/18/08 Ambridge at New Castle 10/18/08 Rochester blanks Neshannock 10/11/08 Wilmington handles Sharon 10/4/08 South Side Beaver blanks Neshannock 9/27/08 Neshannock vs. South Side Beaver 9/27/08 Neshannock holds off Laurel 9/20/08 Rochester blanks 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