For the Bay Rockets, bouncing back from an uncharacteristically bad loss to upstart conference foe Buckeye meant another tough matchup against the top team in the conference from last season: Elyria Catholic.
It was a test that the Rockets (2-1, 1-1 Great Lakes Conference) were more than ready for as they sprinted ahead to a 26-8 halftime lead that would hold throughout a lengthy weather delay to secure a 26-16 win.
“This was a big game for us,” Bay senior Cullen Gergye said. “We’ve been looking forward to this game since last year when we had that tough loss to them and they’ve been talking a lot, so we just wanted to come in and show what we could do.”
Bay played a nearly perfect first half, with four interceptions of Panthers (2-1, 1-1 GLC) quarterback Steven Navalinsky, taking two back for touchdowns.
Senior corner and jack-of-all-trades Cullen Gergye had two first-half interceptions on back-to-back possessions and took one back 33 yards for a touchdown, before adding another in the second half Saturday afternoon.
In addition to his three interceptions, Gergye caught a 33-yard pass with one second remaining in the first half that set up a Logan LaMere score, while also handling the kicking and punting duties for the Rockets.
“He’s unbelievable,” Rutt said. “He has such a knack, when the ball is in the air, to position himself to go up and get it. He’s got great hands and great instincts, he’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he’s a great athlete.”
Fellow three-way player Ben Anderson opened the scoring for Bay with a 4-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter before intercepting Navalinsky and returning it 97 yards for a score on the following drive.
Elyria Catholic controlled much of the second half with quick screen passes and a solid run game led by Christopher Jackson, who led the Panthers with 125 yards rushing.
Jackson scored the only Elyria Catholic touchdown of the first half from 1 yard out, tacking on the two-point conversion as well.
Panthers running back Levi Ellis scored the lone points in the second half, finding the end zone from 7 yards late in the third quarter, with Jackson again converting a two-point try.
Ellis made a tackle on the kickoff that was pushed back due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Jackson two-point conversion. Ellis sped down the field tackling the Rockets return man on the 27 for just a two-yard return.
The effort from Ellis, however, was not enough as the Rockets shook off some rust and secured the game late thanks to running back Nick Buttari.
“It’s tough to sleep on a lead in some ways because the other team has the chance to make a lot of adjustments,” Rutt said. “They have the ability to change things up and it’s tough, but I was very proud of the way our guys came out today because they were fired up and ready to go over there and our guys responded well.”
Next for the Panthers is another huge early-season conference matchup against Buckeye, the team that defeated the Rockets two weeks ago.
Bay will play host to unbeaten Valley Forge (3-0, 2-0 GLC) looking to knock off the current conference leaders. The Patriots have outscored their opponents by 73 points in their first three games but were taken to the wire by Rocky River (2-1, 1-1 GLC) in week two.
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