Elizabeth Forward comes alive in second quarter to down Freeport

Friday, September 13, 2019 | 10:29 PM

What initially looked like it could be a close game turned into convincing win for Elizabeth Forward on Friday night.

The Warriors (3-0, 3-0) turned it on in the second quarter and didn’t look back, scoring four straight touchdowns to roll to a 31-13 win over Freeport (0-3, 0-3).

“When things are going our way, we get that momentum and it’s hard to stop,” Elizabeth Forward coach Mike Collodi said. “That’s what we try to get. We try to get that momentum and keep it rolling.”

Momentum was hard to come by early for the Warriors and Yellowjackets. The offenses sputtered until Andrew Smith hit a 34 yard field goal with 3:53 left in the first quarter.

Aided by 30 yards of penalties on its kickoff return, Freeport answered back, as Garret Schaffhauser hit Ricky Hunter with a 29-yard screen pass and Gavin Stehman with 13-yard touchdown pass soon after. That was the last lead the Yellowjackets had.

Elizabeth Forward cashed in late in the second quarter, converting on fourth-and-12 when Nico Mrvos hit Chase Whatton with a 34-yard touchdown pass on a seam route to take a 10-7 lead with 1:12 left in the half.

Soon after, Zachary Boyd intercepted Schaffhauser and returned it to midfield. The Warriors promptly took advantage, as Mrvos weaved around the Yellowjackets defense to speed to the end zone for a 34-yard rushing touchdown. Mrvos continued to do damage the rest of the game, rushing 17 times for 133 yards.

“Nico’s a great athlete. We’re utilizing him and using his strengths,” Collodi said. “He’s a great runner and just a great athlete, and we’re just going to utilize that on the field.”

In a matter of minutes, the Warriors turned a 7-3 deficit into a 17-7 lead at halftime. Nothing drastic changed, Collodi said. His team just stuck to the plan and it eventually worked.

“We just executed, to be honest. We didn’t do anything really special. We had a great gameplan as a staff coming in, offensively and defensively,” Collodi said. “It started clicking and we started executing.”

Early in the second half, Brodey Woods fumbled, and Mrvos scooped and scored it for a 44-yard touchdown. Another turnover for the Yellowjackets, and another subsequent score for the Warriors.

“I didn’t prepare them well enough,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “I’ve got to do a better job of getting them ready to play. It’s not on the kids. It’s on me.”

Certainly, a lack of preparation wasn’t the sole reason for Freeport’s struggles. Elizabeth Forward’s defense swarmed for most of the night, applying pressure and limiting Schaffhauser to just 7 of 13 passing for 64 yards.

Conversely, Elizabeth Forward’s rushing attack continued to roll in the second half, as Mrvos darted around defenders for a 60-yard run to eventually lead to a 10-yard touchdown by Nick Hunnell early in the fourth quarter. Hunnell added 69 yards on 14 carries.

“We have a bunch of different guys that can run the ball,” Collodi said. “That makes it difficult because you can’t really key on one guy. And I think we’re getting better and better every week.”

Elizabeth Forward is 3-0, while Deer Lakes is 0-3. A Warriors team that figured to have some growing pains early in the season due to its youth has seemingly avoided that, at least in the win column.

“The guys are playing really hard and that’s all I can ask for,” Collodi said. “We’re 3-0, sitting at the top of the conference, and they’re playing really hard football and being physical.”

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