With its trio of talented backs, the Elyria football team looked pretty good on paper entering its first-round Division I playoff game against St. John's Jesuit.
The Pioneers (9-2) looked even better on the grass at Rogers last night, rolling up nearly 400 offensive yards en route to a 21-9 victory over the Titans (8-3), who closed with three losses after an 8-0 start.
Elyria was led by the 1-2 punch of tailbacks P.J. Mahone (31 carries, 203 yards) and Jaa'Rome Williams (17 carries, 122 yards). Quarterback Roger Smith added a timely 4-of-5 passing effort for 46 yards, all in the first half.
"The last three weeks we've gotten pounded hard inside and obviously we're just not big enough on the interior line," Titans coach Doug Pearson said. "We need to work on that in the offseason and hopefully get better.
"We've played great defense every year since we've been at St. John's, and it was only good enough for eight weeks this year."
Trailing 14-0 at halftime, St. John's did get something going early in the third quarter, marching 82 yards for a first-and-goal at the Elyria 8.
But the Titans were forced to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Bill Claus, then cringed just two plays later as Mahone broke things open with a crucial 56-yard TD sprint up the middle with 3:23 left in the third.
St. John's only TD of the game came 12 seconds into the fourth quarter, when quarterback Sean Patterson (12 of 29 passing, 136 yards) capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard sneak.
Much of the load on both Titan scoring marches was carried by running back DeAndre Ware, who closed his prep career with 131 yards on 30 rushes.
"We came out in the second half and got a three-and-out and then come down and score," Pearson said. "But we would've liked to get seven there instead of three there certainly.
"Mahone's a great back, there's no question about that. A guy like that you've just got to keep off the field, and unfortunately we didn't do a good job of that."
The Pioneers dominated the first half, slowed only by two turnovers deep in St. John's territory.
After its defense forced the Titans into back-to-back three-and-out punts, Elyria's vaunted run game proceeded to carve up the St. John's defense.
"We wanted to get some pressure on their quarterback and force some bad throws, and we were able to do that tonight," Pioneers coach Mark Solis said. "We made them do some things they don't like to do.
"I thought our team speed really made a difference tonight. You could see it presented a lot of problems for them. We also controlled the line of scrimmage, and I felt that was the key."
The Pioneers spent seven plays in covering 56 yards for their first TD. Williams' 26-yard sprint around right end forged a first-and-goal at the Titan 5.
Mahone carried the final five yards a play later and Elyria had a 7-0 lead just 3:21 into the game.
Elyria's next drive went 52 yards on 12 plays, with Williams scooting over left tackle on a three-yard TD run with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
St. John's good fortune was to only be down by 14 at the break.
Elyria had rolled 65 yards - all on runs - to the Titan 10, where Mahone lost a fumble at the end of a 20-yard scamper around left end 4:58 before halftime.
After the Titans punted, the Pioneers - bolstered by Williams' 41-yard run and a 28-yard pass from Smith to wideout Jordan Thomas - advanced 77 yards to the Titan 6. This time, Smith coughed the ball up before a handoff, and St. John's recovered at its 5 a minute before the break to avoid going down three TDs.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.