A week removed from winning 47-0 over a replacement team from Virginia, the Elder Panthers had a completely different test on Saturday with the visiting Lakewood St. Edward Eagles. The result was completely different too.
Taking advantage of every Elder mistake and putting together quick drives, St. Edward cruised to a 48-14 in the Saturday afternoon tilt at The Pit.
St. Edward scored 21 points on three Elder interceptions, including a 43-yard interception return by Zyion Freer-Brown. Freer-Brown had two interceptions of Elder quarterback Ben Hambleton, adding the second interception when Elder was inside the St. Edward 15-yard line.
"That was a back-breaker there," St. Edward head coach Tom Lombardo said of the pick six. "They got a little momentum at that stage. They made a couple of stops and then we flipped it on them on that big play."
Elder had intercepted Eagles quarterback Christian Ramos on the play before the interception return.
Trailing 21-7, Elder drove down the field when Freer-Brown snagged his second pick with 3:10 left in the half. St. Edward got to Elder's 35-yard line and heaved a final pass with just two seconds on the clock.
Ryan Micklich came down with the ball in the endzone as time expired in the first half and Elder went to the break trailing 28-7, suffering from a multiple-score swing from its own hand.
"I said, 'When you have six guys standing there, it's not quite 50-50, but I might be pretty close when you got down there,'" Lombardo said. "Obviously we couldn't kick it into the wind. We practiced that situation and I'm really proud that we executed it."
Elder head coach Doug Ramsey said the Panthers could feel the momentum shift after the touchdown before the half: "If it's a two-score difference and you get the ball first (in the second half) against a good team, you've still got a chance. A three-score difference, now it's a big uphill battle. That series was really big."
The three scores Elder trailed by at half was more than the Panthers could score the entire game. Elder scored on a one-yard rush by Drew Ramsey in the first quarter and added another in the fourth quarter on a Hambleton pass to Andrew Harp.
Elder had solid offensive drives and against most other teams, its 312 yards of offense would have made a more competitive game. The Panthers needed to go to the pass offense and its interceptions left points on the field.
"I thought Ben really played well today," Ramsey said of his quarterback. "He got the crap knocked out of him and he did a good job so I'm not being critical of him in any way."
Hambleton, despite the three picks, was 25-for-36 passing for 256 yards and a touchdown.
The loss dropped Elder to 2-2 right before its toughest stretch of the year. Elder will travel to Louisville St. Xavier next Friday before playing at Cincinnati's St. Xavier and then hosting Moeller.
A tough stretch, but one Ramsey has coached through for more than two decades and one he expects his players to land through safely on the other side.
"We're at that make-or-break point," Ramsey said. "Do you believe that we can be good or not? We're 2-2 and we've got a stretch of games here where we're going to play good people, but they're games that we can win.
"Now I think it's on these guys and on their belief and on our captains and other guys need to pull everybody together."
St. Edward - 14 14 13 7 - 48
Elder - 0 7 0 7 - 14
SE- Ramos 10 run (Lavelle kick)
SE- Ramos 6 run (Lavelle kick)
E- Ramsey 1 run (Maurer kick)
SE- Freer-Brown 45 interception return (Lavelle kick)
SE- Micklich 35 pass from Ramos (Lavelle kick)
SE- Ramos 20 run (Lavelle kick)
SE- Ramos 6 run (kick failed)
E- Harp 15 pass from Hambleton (Maurer kick)
SE- Gribble 5 run (Lavelle kick)
Records: SE 4-0; E 2-2.