The Elder Panthers (8-3) outscored the Sycamore Aviators (9-2) 49-42 on Saturday night at The Pit. While neither teams defense had much to say in this game, the offenses for both squads were in championship shape.
The first quarter started out slowly as each team was feeling the other out, but with a minute and a half remaining Sycamore's Greg Simpson scored the first of his four rushing touchdowns in the game, this one from one yard out.
Elder would match that score on the final play of the quarter when Joe Ramstetter hauled in a pass from Josh Moore that was tipped several times before Ramstetter finally grabbed it and went 63 yards for the score, knotting the game at seven.
The Panther's Chris Schroer was a huge factor again this weekend scoring three more times. Schroer's first of the night was a one yard run that gave Elder their first lead 14-7.
Simpson added another rushing score, an 18-yarder with five minutes to go in the first half, making the score fourteen all.
Elder put together a nice drive to end the first half, capping it with a 1-yard touchdown run by Schroer with just 38 seconds remaining in the half. Sycamore would move the ball a little, but a Simpson fumble gave the ball back to the Panthers and at halftime the score was 21-14.
Early in the third quarter the Aviators were moving the ball when Simpson fumbled again and the Panther's Carl Lengerich grabbed the loose ball. Simpson needed help off the field after the play and was unable to put any weight on his right leg.
Sycamore's defense forced an Elder punt and when the Aviator offense came back on the field it was Joey Gruden at quarterback. Several Sycamore players were urging Simpson to get back in the game, saying they needed him. After one play out Simpson hobbled back onto the field, his play the rest of the way left many forgetting he was ever hurt.
Schroer added his third touchdown of the night for Elder with a little under six minutes to go in the third quarter giving the Panthers a 28-14 lead, but things were just getting interesting.
A minute and a half later Simpson went 70 yards for a score, showing no signs that he couldn't even walk just a few minutes prior. The score was 28-21 Elder after one of many big plays at the end of this game.
Again the Panthers answered with a scoring drive of their own, culminating in an Anthony Stacklin 4-yard touchdown catch with eleven seconds remaining in the third quarter.
As slow as the first quarter was, the fourth quarter was exactly the opposite, as both teams would score on big plays within the first minute of the final quarter. First Simpson threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Marcus James. After just eighteen seconds were off the game clock Elder had matched that score with a 70-yard catch and run by Ramstetter.
The score was 42-28 in favor of the Panthers with 11:03 left in the game. There were 21 points scored in the last one minute and eight seconds of game clock time.
With Simpson's leg problems well behind them, the Aviators put together a solid drive to get to within seven on Simpson's fourth rushing score of the night, a 14-yarder making the score 42-35.
When things got tough for Elder they turned to the offense to bail them out all night and it would be no different at the end of the game. After a balanced drive moved the ball quickly down field the Panther's Ramstetter caught his third touchdown of the night, a 10-yard toss from JMoore in the end zone right in front of the Elder locker room. With just over three minutes to go in the game the Panthers led 49-35.
Sycamore was not done fighting just yet, moving the ball easily down the field and getting back to within seven at 49-42 when Simpson hit Caleb Coletts on a 34-yard scoring strike.
Elder recovered the onside kick attempt, and after a first down they were able to take a knee to win the game.
While the 2012 playoff run was shorter than hoped for the Aviators, they have much to look forward to in 2013 as Simpson and linebacker Tinashe Bere will be back to lead their respective units.
Things don't get any easier for the Elder Panthers as they take on the top seeded Colerain Cardinals (11-0) next week. Colerain is coming off their second win this season over St. Xavier. The only other common opponent for the Cardinals and Panthers in 2012 is Sycamore, both clubs knocking off the Aviators by seven this season.