By Bryant Billing
SIDNEY — Lehman Catholic has had a lot of success with head coach Dick Roll the last decade — just not in the first week of the season. And though it looked like things would change after the first half against Fort Recovery last Friday, Roll wasn’t celebrating early.
The Cavaliers took a 21-point lead against Fort Recovery in a season opener, but the Indians scored the game’s last four touchdowns to earn a 27-21 victory in overtime. Lehman still hasn’t won a season opener in Roll’s 12 years as coach.
“At no time was I confident,” Roll said of beating Fort Recovery. “Even with a 21-point lead, they’re not far removed from a state final (in 2015). Those kids are good and know how to play in tight games. They scored right before halftime, and it changed the momentum. And like I told our kids, it wasn’t that we played like garbage in the second half; we just didn’t get the breaks, and they’re a good team that made some plays.”
Lehman will try to rebound from the close loss at 7 p.m. on Friday, when they play Miami East at Sidney Memorial Stadium. It will be the first time the teams have played since 2000, when both were members of the now-defunct Southwestern Rivers Conference. Both were playoff teams last season.
“We saw the tape on them in their last scrimmage and their first game, and they’re really good,” Roll said of the Vikings. “They’re much improved from their last scrimmage to their first game.”
Roll said Fort Recovery moved the ball well on the ground and then threw a couple of deep passes when Lehman’s defensive backs weren’t well-placed. He said that’s been a big emphasis in practice this week and shouldn’t be an issue going forward.
If there’s one thing Lehman has done well after losing so many openers the last 12 years, it’s bouncing back to finish the season well. Roll said he’s confident the team will do that again.
“I think it’s always good to get off on the right foot,” Roll said. “Though we haven’t, we’ve got a talented group of kids, and the biggest thing is they’ve got to learn how to overcome adversity. Last year, we gave Fort Recovery a run (a 21-20 loss) and came out and didn’t play well at all in our second game (against Minster). I think they’ve learned from that.”
Lehman moved the ball on offense against Fort Recovery. Owen Smith rushed for 111 yards on 25 carries, while quarterback Elliott Gilardi had 19 carries for 97 yards and Brandon Barhorst had three carries for 63 yards. Gilardi and Barhorst both ran for touchdowns.
Gilardi completed 11-of-20 passes for 99 yards with one touchdown to Kameron Lee, who caught six passes for 59 yards.
The Vikings had a stellar defensive effort in a 17-3 victory over Milton-Union. Miami East held the Bulldogs to 202 yards of offense and grabbed two interceptions. The Vikings led 3-0 at halftime but scored two touchdowns in the second half to secure the win.
“If we stop their run and don’t let them get the big plays, I think we can do well,” Roll said. “Again, we’re going in with the idea of stopping the run, but they’ve got a totally different offense than what we’ve seen even in our scrimmages, so our kids will have to adjust to that.”