Hughes-Sciarro connection leads Riverside past rival Ellwood City

Friday, October 11, 2019 | 11:36 PM

Riverside quarterback Ben Hughes and wide receiver Nathan Sciarro started working on their connection in May, going down to the football field after school and running routes with the goal of getting better timing.

All of that offseason work certainly paid off, because their connection was impeccable Friday night.

Hughes threw a career-high six touchdown passes — three of them to Sciarro — in a 49-28 victory on homecoming over cross-town rival Ellwood City in the RivEll Cup game.

Hughes, a senior and four-year starter at quarterback, was 14 for 16 passing for 197 yards.

“This is my last time playing Ellwood City, and I just think that’s a great way to go out,” Hughes said. “I’m just so happy we won this game. That’s the most important thing. I don’t care about the stats. I just care about the win.”

The win puts Riverside (5-2, 4-2) in the thick of the playoff race in a muddled Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference. The Panthers won their fourth straight over the Wolverines (0-8, 0-6) and improved to 11-4 against them in the last 15 meetings.

Sciarro, who is the grandson of Panthers coach Ron Sciarro, had seven receptions for 147 yards. He also is the kicker and punter and was successful on all seven extra-point attempts.

Hughes found Sciarro for the first of their three touchdowns on a 52-yard bomb down the sideline, which made the score 21-0 with less than three minutes remaining in the first half.

Then a fumble recovery on a sack set up Riverside at the Ellwood City 35-yard line with 8 seconds remaining in the half. On the ensuing play, Hughes dropped back, looked to his left and then glanced to his right and fired a strike to Sciarro, who caught the ball in the end zone as time expired. The score gave Riverside a 28-0 lead going into the locker room.

“I saw (Sciarro) had a step, and I just trusted my dude over that cornerback, so I just hucked it out there,” Hughes said. “He made a great play on the ball and caught it.”

Hughes and Sciarro connected again in the third on a 21-yard pass that made the score 42-14.

“It’s just a blessing to have a quarterback like that, who can make all the throws. Whenever we need a big play, he’s the guy that can do it,” Sciarro said. “We worked all offseason trying to figure out where the ball was going to be when I made my cuts and where I was going to be off my break. It wasn’t easy getting it down, but I’m glad we did and it’s working for us.”

The Panthers played without leading rusher Hunter Nulph, who was out because of injury. Dantae Phillips filled in with 78 yards and a touchdown. Phillips also had a 5-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter.

Ellwood City has only three seniors and showed signs of growth in the second half. The Wolverines scored all 28 of their points in the final two quarters after scoring 28 total points in their first seven games.

Wolverines quarterback Ryan Gibbons, a junior, threw for 128 yards and two scores and senior fullback Storm Chambers had two rushing touchdowns and one receiving score. Tyler Powell rushed for 160 yards on 18 carries.

“We don’t ever want to be satisfied with a moral victory, but we definitely took a step in the right direction tonight,” first-year Ellwood City coach Joe Lamenza said. “This is a young football team, and it would’ve been really easy for them to quit in the second half, but they didn’t do that. They came out on fire, and they fought all the way to the end.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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