By Jim Horvath
It definitely wasn’t your typical Amherst-North Olmsted game. You know, the nail-biting, down to the wire, going into overtime classics of the past.
In fact, it was a game that the Eagles and head coach Mike Ptacek would just as soon forget. And the sooner, the better.
The Comets broke open a close game in the second quarter with a 10-point run fueled by a pair of Eagle turnovers and ran away with a 30-7 decision to open the Southwestern Conference season Friday night at Memorial Field. Amherst remained undefeated with a 4-0 record, while North Olmsted dropped to 2-2 heading into next Friday night’s homecoming game with Avon Lake.
“We had excellent effort out there tonight,” Ptacek said. “The kids fought hard. But if you give Amherst an inch, they’ll take a yard or more. They capitalized on our mistakes and put us in a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
With the Comets playing eight in the box, the Eagles were forced to rely more on the passing game. That paid off early in the second quarter when senior quarterback Mike Shoemaker found junior Marc Remy on a 50-yard scoring strike with 9:53 left in the first half. Nick Stone-Weiss booted the conversion kick, and North Olmsted was back in the game, trailing by just three at 10-7.
The North Olmsted defense stepped up, stopping the Comets on downs on the next possession. But an interception three plays later gave Amherst the ball on the Eagle 27-yard line. Six plays later, Zach Kelley scored on a counter to make it 17-7 with 6:04 left in the half.
On their next possession, disaster struck again on the third play, with a deflected pass falling into an Amherst player’s hands. Again, the Comets had the ball at the 27. With just over a minute left in the half, Amherst nailed a 28-yard field goal to make it. 20-7 at the half.
Amherst took the second half kickoff and drove 51 yards to the North Olmsted 7, settling for another Tyler Bires field goal and a 23-7 advantage. That was the only score of the third quarter as the Eagle defense stiffened. But their offense couldn’t get close enough to threaten the rest of the game, and the Comets put the game away with a 41-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
“It seemed like when we had the opportunity to make a play, we weren’t able to get it done,” Ptacek said after addressing the team in the north end zone.
“When you play a team that’s as good as Amherst, you have to keep them on their toes,” he said. “We were able to mix up our coverages and give them a lot of different looks to slow them down a bit. We kept them out of the end zone a couple of times, but obviously it wasn’t good enough.
“The ball didn’t bounce our way a couple of times, then we found ourselves behind. Offensively, we tried a few things. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. With them playing eight guys in the box, we knew we had to try to get outside on them and spread them out a bit.
“But again, once you get behind against a team like Amherst has this year, it makes it a lot tougher,” he added.