ERIE — The Centaurus and Erie football teams have both enjoyed a good start to the season on the gridiron, but when it came to meeting each other for a non-league tilt at Tigers Stadium, mistakes filled the air.
Mistakes that Centaurus did not make in forging a 2-0 record entering their toughest test of the early season. But after allowing two long returns for touchdowns in the first half Friday night, Centaurus miscues mounted and the host Tigers capitalized to outlast the Warriors, 36-23.
Luke Conilogue caught two short touchdown passes in the second half, and Elijah Roper had 121 yards rushing for Erie, which forced five Centaurus turnovers for the game and also scored a safety late that put all the momentum in Erie’s corner.
“We do great with adversity, and we just came back out in the second half and kicked some butt,” Conilogue said after the victory, which put Erie at 2-0 under first year coach Chris Summers.
Erie’s determination was exemplified by running back Elijah Roper. He made a huge mistake in allowing Centaurus’ Matt Buchler to strip the ball right from his hands on a running play in the second quarter — Buchler returned the ball 68 yards for a touchdown — but took over the game after that.
His yardage on the ground helped eat time, but he also had a 20-yard pass completion and made one of three interceptions.
“He was definitely a spark for us this week. He put the team on his shoulder tonight, and you don’t know how proud I am of him,” coach Chris Summers said. “He took control of the game for us.”
“Elijah is a fighter,” Conilogue added. “Just like all of us, when we mess up we just try to do better.”
Touchdowns were scored in a variety of ways Friday, and it made for a tight game throughout most of it with six lead changes. Ryan True had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for Erie to make it 13-6, but that was followed by a Centaurus field goal and then Buchler’s fumble return.
The Warriors very well could have had the lead going to the locker room, but with 40 seconds left quarterback Ryan Cotter was intercepted by Erie’s Trevor David, who dipped and dodged his way to an 80-yard TD return to make it 20-16 at the half.
Centaurus took its final lead early in the third on a 20-yard Buchler TD reception, a circus catch that he finally lassoed while on his back. However, a fumble on the next possession set EHS up at the Centaurus 46-yard line, and the Tigers pushed it home with one of Conilogue’s two scores, both both from 5 yards out.
Erie made it 29-23 on a safety when a Centaurus punt snap went through the back of the end zone, and was able to extend that on the ensuing free kick.
“We turned it over too many times,” said Buchler, who had some big plays for Centaurus, finishing with 100 yards of offense and just about as many return yards. “This is toughest team we’ve faced, but we have to keep focused on the next team. We kept fighting, but it just didn’t work out for us tonight.”
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Erie 36, Centaurus 23
At Erie HS
Centaurus (2-1) 6 10 7 0 — 23
Erie (2-0) 13 7 7 9 — 36
Erie — Elijah Roper 1 run (kick failed). Centaurus — Matt Axelrod 16 run (kick failed). Erie — Ryan True 88 kickoff return (Kyle Haynes kick).
Centaurus — Shayne Albertson 22 field goal. Centaurus — Matt Buchler 68 fumble return (Albertson kick). Erie — Trevor David 80 interception return (Haynes kick).
Centaurus — Buchler 20 pass from Ryan Cotter (Albertson kick). Erie — Luke Conilogue 5 pass from Chantz Schenbeck (Haynes kick).
Erie — Safety bad snap into back of end zone. Erie — Conilogue 5 pass from Schenbeck (Haynes kick).
RUSHING — Centaurus: Matt Buchler 19-51, Felipe Cruz 7-44, Matt Axelrod 9-62, Ryan Cotter 1-(minus-12). Erie: Elijah Roper 17-121, BJ Jensen 7-55, Wes Brow 3-14, Chantz Schenbeck 3-(minus-6).
PASSING — Centaurus: Cotter 13-24-3-103. Erie: Schenbeck 8-13-0-71, Roper 1-1-0-20.
RECEIVING — Centaurus: Shayne Albertson 5-44, Buchler 7-47, Andrew Vigil 1-12. Erie: Jensen 2-30, Roper 1-26, Brow 2-19, Luke Conilogue 4-16.