2009 Rewind: Elder Panthers

When one looks back on the 2009 Elder Panthers and all the obstacles they had to overcome, it is quickly realized how that the team did a remarkable job of handling adversity. Injuries to two Division I College prospects on offense were not enough to derail the westsiders.
A veteran group of seniors almost willed the team back to the state finals for a second straight season. The Class of 2009 will certainly have their place in Elder lore. The kids gave head coach Doug Ramsey an A+ effort, they just ran out of time in the end.
Let's take a game-by-game look at Elder's 2009 campaign:

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The Elder Panthers high-scoring offense picked up right where it left off in 2008 despite having to replace all five linemen. East St. Louis pulled to within one point at 21-20 midway through the second quarter, but Elder would score four of the game's final five touchdowns. Adam Brown ran for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Mark Miller threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns, two to classmate Tim O'Conner. The defense did allow 282 yards rushing, but linebacker Corey Mason came up with a big interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the contest out of reach.
In front of the home crowd and a national TV audience on ESPN, Elder beat Colerain in a rematch of last season's classic regional final. In a fiercely heated contest, the Panthers passing game proved to be the difference in the outcome. The Cardinals had their way running the ball between the 20's, racking up 247 yards on the ground. However, they had trouble punching the ball into end zone. Miller threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns as the team played error free football.
Kicker Tony Miliano showed why he is a First-Team All-State performer, connecting on all four of his field goal attempts as he helped the Panthers put red zone points on the board. The defense forced three turnovers and sacked Trinity quarterback Ryan Frederich five times. Elder junior Ben Coffaro ran for 127 yards and a touchdown.
GAME #4 - ELDER 23, LaSALLE 13
The Panthers started GCL South play off on the right foot as they pick up a hard fought road win over LaSalle as the FOX19 Friday Prep Rally made its way to Lancer Stadium. Safety Jake Fishburn picked off three Drew Kummer passes as the Panthers defense bent, but did not break. Special teams made a big difference in this one as Mason connected with Fishburn for 25 yards on a fake punt and Miliano drilled another field goal. Coffaro had his second straight 100-yard game rushing with a score.
Elder ran its record to 5-0 behind an almost flawless performance by quarterback Miller. All the senior did was complete 24 of 26 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns. O'Conner caught seven of those balls for 135 yards and a touchdown. Justin Maxwell scored the first two touchdowns of his career as he was on the receiving end of two scores. The win was costly as Indiana-bound offensive lineman Pete Bachman broke his leg and would be finished for the year.
It was a game of bad breaks for the Panthers, literally. O'Conner broke his wrist in the first half and the offense could never get on track against a very good St. Xavier defense. The Bombers held the Panthers to just five yards rushing and sacked the quarterback six times. For the first time in his career Miller completed less than 50 percent of his passes in a game. Tight end Alex Welch was a bright spot with six receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Moeller played smash-mouth football as they dominated line play on both sides of the ball. The Crusaders amassed 323 yards on the ground. Senior Jeff Aubin collected 215 of those and three touchdowns. Elder looked out of sync without O'Conner and Bachman. The offensive line gave up four more sacks and the rushing attack failed to break the century mark for the second straight week. The loss left the team at 1-2 in the GCL South, ending their shot at back-to-back league titles.
The Panthers got a much-needed victory over a very game DeSales squad. Coffaro ran for 106 yards and three touchdowns. Welch caught two more scores as the offense appeared to be headed back in the right direction. The defense still displayed problems stopping the run as the Stallions racked up 337 yards rushing.
A Week 9 bye gave Elder two weeks to prepare for rival Western Hills which turned out to be a great thing for the Panthers. Six first-half touchdowns and a 42-0 lead enabled head coach Doug Ramsey to play some youngsters in the second half. Brown looked like his old self with 10 carries for 86 and two touchdowns.
GAME #10 - ELDER 35, WAYNE 14
A post-season visit to The Pit was not a pleasant outing for the Warriors. Elder's size along both lines was too much for Wayne to handle and in the end it wore them down. The Panthers sacked Braxton Miller five times. Elder threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns. O'Conner returned to the lineup to catch three balls for 88 yards and a touchdown. They ran for another 150 and two more scores. Take out a 61-yard touchdown run by Miller to start the game and a 48-yard scoring strike to Caleb Elkins to end it and the Warriors could only amass 165 total yards the rest of the contest.
GAME #11 - ELDER 17, ST. XAVIER 14
Elder avenged an early season loss to St. Xavier at the most opportune time. It was a complete turnaround for the Panthers from the first meeting. The offensive line was spectacular as Elder did not allow a sack and ran for 150 yards. Coffaro had 189 all-purpose yards, 125 of those on the ground and a touchdown. Elder jumped out to a 17-0 only to have to stave off a fourth quarter fury by the Bombers.
Elder built a 21-0 second quarter lead that was more than Anderson could make up as the Panthers won their second consecutive regional title. Miller battled back from two interceptions on his way to four passing touchdowns in the contest. O'Conner caught two of those scores. Coffaro ran for a career-high 144 yards. The defense did allow 358 yards rushing to the Redskins, but still weathered the storm.
This was a match up on paper that favored Hilliard Davidson on offense. The Achilles' heel of Elder all season long was their rush defense and it finally came back to haunt them. The Wildcats ran the ball 60 times for 302 yards and three touchdowns as they advanced to the state championship (which they eventually won). It marked the fourth time in seven games that the Panthers allowed 300-plus yards rushing to an opponent.
--Mark Miller set the school record for career touchdown passes (56) and passing yards (5,872).
--Tony Miliano, a two-time First-Team All-State performer, set the school record for most made field goals (27) and points by a kicker (230).
--Tim O'Conner finished his career with 118 receptions for 1,663 yards and 22 touchdowns.
--Ben Coffaro heads into his senior year having already amassed 2,772 all-purpose yards, including 1,467 rushing and 26 total touchdowns.
--This was the decade of the Panther as they enjoyed eight playoff appearances, including two Division I State Championships, a runner-up and final-four finish.
**The Elder Panthers have been nominated as one of six finalists for QueenCityHigh.com's Ohio Team of the Year. The award will be handed at our Ohio Year In Review show at Buca di Beppo at Rookwood Commons in Norwood on Thursday, January 12th, 2010. The event is open to the public, but you must RSVP by e-mail at staff@tristatefootball.com. Cost for admission is $15 per person and includes family-style Italian buffet. Please stay tuned to our free message board - THE 275 LOOP - for further details**