CINCINNATI – Elder had to shake off a nervous start and a 75-minute weather delay right after halftime, but the Panthers pulled away from home-standing and emotionally charged Oak Hills, 34-6, in one of the featured match-ups in the 17th annual Skyline Crosstown Showdown.
PHOTO GALLERY: See photos from Elder vs. Oak Hills
A sellout crowd awaited the two teams at Betz Memorial Stadium in the longtime rivals’ first meeting since 2008.
Things did not start smoothly for the Panthers, even though they escaped without any damage on the scoreboard. Oak Hills marched down the field to the Elder 5 yard line on its first drive, but a bad snap on third-and-goal led to a 35-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by Elder defensive end Spencer Kandra.
But the Panthers (1-0) didn’t capitalize, going three-and-out on their first drive, including a third-down sack by Highlanders senior linebacker Jordan Holt.
After a three-and-out by the Oak Hills offense, the Panthers moved inside the Highlanders’ 20-yard line, but quarterback Peyton Ramsey was intercepted near the goal line by Oak Hills’ senior safety Jacob Forte early in the second quarter.
But Oak Hills (0-1) returned the favor when sophomore quarterback Cooper Scholz fumbled, which was recovered by Panthers’ junior safety Matt Schroer at the Oak Hills’ 30. Four plays later, junior running back Ja-Vahri Portis capped the short drive by going in from six yards out to give the Panthers the 6-0 lead with 8:21 left in the half.
"We were nervous," Elder head coach Doug Ramsey said. “We’re young. We've got experience, but we still have a lot of inexperience. So we came out a little nervous, but then we settled in and played pretty well after that."
After a second Highlanders’ drive inside the Elder 20 reaped zero points after Oak Hills turned the ball over on downs, the Panthers went 80 yards on 13 plays that ended when Peyton Ramsey carried it in from one yard out on fourth down to give Elder a 13-0 lead with 56 seconds left in the half.
Elder took control early in the third. On the Panthers’ first offensive series, Peyton Ramsey found junior tight end Brannen Martin from nine yards out to make it 20-0 with 8:45 left in the third quarter, and the defense got into the act just 52 seconds later when safety Matt Peters intercepted Scholz and took it 25-yards to make it 27-0.
Then, lightning was spotted in the distance and the officials pulled the teams off the field that ended up being a 75-minute delay. When play resumed, Oak Hills converted a 4th-and-1 in its own territory but couldn’t sustain the drive and was forced to punt. Portis scored his second touchdown of the night with 25 seconds left in the third to make it 34-0.
"We sat in the gym," Doug Ramsey said. "We had gained momentum at that point, and it (the weather delay) took the momentum from us. So we had to just make sure we kept focused, and just relax. We were just hanging out, waiting it out."
Elder made a goal-line stand again to deny Oak Hills on its next possession. But a lost fumble gave the ball back to the Highlanders, and Scholz hit senior wide receiver Jason Walters from 11-yards out with 1:47 left in the game to get Oak Hills on the board.
Portis led all rushers with 99 yards on 24 carries and his two touchdowns. Ramsey shook off his shaky start to go 9 of 12 through the air for 108 yards.
Walters had a stellar night in the losing cause, catching seven passes for 139 yards, and adding a team high 39 rushing yards on nine carries. Scholz was 8 of 15 passing for 142 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Elder will play the first of six straight home games on Friday when they welcome Lakota West (1-0) to The Pit. Oak Hills will attempt to rebound next week when they host Harrison (1-0).