By Ryan Hines
ELIDA -- For the second straight week, Celina dropped a heartbreaking game in the final minutes of the game.
Elida took advantage of five Celina turnovers and the Orange and Black won its first Western Buckeye League game in four years, 22-16.
"I just felt that there was a tremendous burden on our shoulders in the league and we needed to get rid of that weight by winning a league football game," said Elida head coach Chris Etzler. "Now we just need to make this a stepping stone and build on it."
Elida improves to 2-3 on the season and 1-3 in the WBL while Celina falls to 1-4 overall and 1-3 in the league.
With the score knotted at 16-16, Celina forced Elida into a turnover just seven-yards shy of the home team taking the lead as Jordan Heuker recovered a Jason Sarno fumble. With 10:29 on the clock, Celina took control of the ball from its own 10-yard line and appeared to have the type of drive going to allow the visiting Bulldogs to take the lead.
Celina had eight running plays and two pass completions covering 62 yards before disaster struck.
On a failed handoff attempt, Celina put the ball on the ground for the third time in the game and Elida's Aaron Jacobs recovered the fumble at the Elida 28-yard line. It was the fifth turnover of the game for Celina which has 21 turnovers now in five games this year.
"Elida deserves all the credit in the world, they played a better football game than us," said Celina head coach Mike Fell. "When you turn the ball over as much as we have and we did tonight, you're not going to win the game. We've got as many turnovers as anyone in the league and until we stop doing that, it's going to be a struggle for us."
Elida took over the ball with 5:09 to go in the game with a chance to win the game and the home team took advantage.
Elida ran five straight running plays before Sarno came up with the play of the game for the Orange and Black. Elida was facing a third-and-three situation when Sarno surprised everyone in the crowd, including the Celina defense, when he dropped back to pass and hit Joe Huckins for a 26-yard gainer moving the ball to the Celina 25-yard line. It was the first and only pass completion in the game for Sarno.
"We were pounding them with the run the whole game and then our coaches made a great call because we thought we could do some things on a waggle play," explained Etzler. "Jason made a big play when he needed to and our receiver made a nice catch. Not only did that play give us a boost, but it might have set back Celina a little bit too."
"It was the right situation to run that play and the quarterback made a nice throw and the receiver made a nice catch for a big play in that drive," said Fell.
From there on out, Elida went back to the running game as four straight runs moved the ball to the one-yard line before Sarno crossed the goal line for the game-winning score with 1:11 left on the clock.
Celina still had a chance to pick up the win, but three yards through the air preluded Erik Chapin's third interception of the game clinching the win for Elida.
"This type of win is huge for our kids and the whole program," said an elated Etzler after the game. "We've struggled in the league and to finally get a win in league play is huge, it's just huge. We let a win get away against Kenton in week two but we've been getting better in the last few weeks and it was great to see the kids execute to get the win. It has never been a lack of effort or the scheme for us, it's been execution that has done us in and we were able to execute tonight. I'm just proud of our kids."
Elida was led by a fierce and consistent ground attack that totaled 260 yards on the ground. Derick Edwards led the Elida ground game with 149 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown in the second quarter while backfield teammate Alex Martin also hit the 100-yard plateau with 100 yards on 23 carries.
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Celina was led by the rushing of Kelly Mallory who carried the ball 13 times for 103 yards while Chapin added 93 yards and 12 totes.
Celina is back in action on Friday hosting Bath.