BRUNSWICK — As the clock wound down in the fourth quarter, Chase Rieg anxiously waited for an opportunity to redeem himself.
When it arrived, the senior running back did just that.
Rieg powered through the line for a 12-yard touchdown run with 52 seconds left Friday, giving Brunswick’s football team a 40-35 Northeast Ohio Conference cross-division victory over previously undefeated Elyria.
The TD not only capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive for the Blue Devils (4-2), it pushed Rieg over the 200-yard mark for the evening and allowed him to atone for losing a fumble earlier in the final period.
“I knew I had to produce because that could have been our season,” said Rieg, who rushed for a career-high 202 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. “Our linemen pushed for me all night, so I had to take advantage of the holes they were making.
“With the way everything happened tonight, this was the greatest win I’ve ever been a part of.”
It also was the biggest victory of coach Luke Beal’s career at Brunswick and generated a ton of playoff points and momentum for the program on homecoming weekend.
The Pioneers (5-1), who trailed 27-7 late in the first half, took the lead with 7:20 left in the fourth on a 25-yard pass from Hunter Parsh to Tavon Kurtz. It occurred three plays after Rieg lost the football at his 45-yard line.
From there, Elyria clung to a 35-34 lead as the teams traded possessions — and had one controversial game-changing call go in each direction — before Brunswick’s defense forced the Pioneers to punt with 4:19 remaining.
Rieg and junior running back Michael Bekeny (15 carries, 81 yards, 2 TDs) were the only players to carry the ball on the Blue Devils’ subsequent drive. Both converted third-down runs, including Rieg on third-and-1 from the Elyria 12 for the game-winning points.
“Chase is one of our leaders and he really made it count tonight,” Beal said. “He doesn’t fumble often, so he took what happened to heart and helped us get a huge win against a very good football team.
“It’s like I told the kids after the game, this was a homecoming game that they will never forget. It was very memorable for everyone who was here.”
Junior running back Joe Pinzone (6 carries, 50 yards) also cashed in a pair of scores as Brunswick rushed for 313 yards despite playing without starter Richie Norman, who suffered a hip injury Wednesday.
Guards Brandon Hemeyer and Jack Dralle, center Mark Witthun, tackles Tom Knuff and Brandon Cerovac and tight end Ethan Engelke handled the blocking for the Blue Devils’ three-headed rushing monster.
Junior quarterback Steven Ficyk (8-for-14, 111 yards, INT) and junior wide receiver Gary Clift Jr. (3 receptions, 37 yards) also made clutch plays for Brunswick as it overcame a ferocious comeback by the Pioneers.
Elyria senior running back Jordan Connell scored three first-half touchdowns and rushed for 133 yards on 15 carries, while senior running back Jumarr Lewis had 78 yards and one TD. Junior quarterback Parsh finished 9-for-24 for 143 yards and a score.
“I’ve got to tip my hat to Brunswick. That was a great drive at the end of the game,” Pioneers coach Kevin Fell said. “I really thought we were going to stop them, but they kept running the ball over and over, and I think they wore us down a little bit.
“They played as hard as they possibly could and so did we. I’m sure it was a great game for the fans, but obviously you have a couple of regrets when you come up short.”
Elyria forced all three of the turnovers in the contest, but allowed the Blue Devils to rack up 29 first downs and 424 yards total offense.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brunswick 40, Elyria 35
ELYRIA 7 14 7 7 — 35
BRUNSWICK 14 13 7 6 — 40
E — Jordan Connell 12 run (Josh Lewis kick), 8:48.
B — Michael Bekeny 6 run (Kyle Hotz kick), 4:29.
B — Bekeny 8 run (Hotz kick), 2:06.
B — Joe Pinzone 3 run (Hotz kick), 6:44.
B — Chase Rieg 41 run (kick failed), 3:46.
E — Connell 80 run (Lewis kick), 3:28.
E — Connell 14 run (Lewis kick), 0:27.
B — Pinzone 7 run (Hotz kick), 6:58.
E — Jumarr Lewis 3 run (Lewis kick), 3:25.
E — Tavon Kurtz 25 pass from Hunter Parsh (Lewis kick), 7:20.
B — Rieg 12 run (run failed), 0:52.