Farmers hit long passes to beat E-B
By NICK VLAHOS
For The Weekly Post
FARMINGTON – Jack Gronewold wasn’t going to let another long pass slip just out of his reach. Not with Elmwood-Brimfield poised for an upset victory.
On fourth-down-and-3 with 6:26 remaining in the game, the Farmington sophomore connected with quarterback Lane Wheelwright for an 84-yard touchdown play. It gave the Farmers a lasting lead in a 30-26 football victory Sept. 22.
“He just dropped it right in my bucket and I caught it,” Gronewold said. “It’s amazing. I’ve never felt anything like that before.”
The victory over its Route 78 rival made Farmington 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the LincolnLand Conference large division. It also made the Farmers, who play Friday night at Macomb, eligible for the state playoffs.
E-B (1-4, 1-3) needs to win the rest of its games this season to achieve that, starting Friday at home against Aledo Mercer County. But for most of this game, the Trojans were every bit a match for their hosts, thanks in part to the heretofore-unseen prolific passing of junior quarterback CJ Ramirez.
“I think maybe our guys thought this was going to be a little bit easier than it really was going to be,” Farmington Coach Toby Vallas said. “In the mind of a high-schooler, you just never know. I just think we made the right plays at the right time.”
From the Farmington perspective, there was no better time for Gronewold and Wheelwright.
With 1:11 left in the third quarter, Ramirez passed 17 yards to Bo Windish in double coverage on fourth-and-8 to give E-B a 20-16 lead. It was part of a banner passing night for Ramirez, who finished 5-of-8 for 99 yards. Windish had three catches for 40 yards and also ran for 93 yards.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, on third-and-24 at the Farmington 22-yard line, Wheelwright threw a long pass to Gronewold. He didn’t catch the ball, although it appeared he got a few fingers on it.
“My vision just went blurry and I just dropped the ball,” Gronewold said.
Farmington next took possession at its 9 following an E-B punt from midfield. After three plays produced little, Wheelwright and Gronewold meshed for their third touchdown of the game and a 23-20 lead.
“No guts, no glory,” Vallas said about the play call. “We believe in our kids and we’re going to give them a chance to make plays, and we had some guys make plays.”
Another Wheelwright heave, this one for 36 yards to Boston Smith, made it 30-20 with 5:04 remaining. But E-B wasn’t finished in a second half that had more plot twists than the final 15 minutes of “Die Hard.”
Layne Durst’s 5-yard run at 3:07 set the final score. A 46-yard Ramirez pass to Jimmy Babcock preceded it. After that, Wheelwright (229 yards passing) and his brother Jack Wheelwright ran enough to secure the win.
“I think we could have played a lot better, but it’s very good for us,” said Gronewold, who amassed 174 yards receiving. “We always like to beat Elmwood.”
E-B set its tone on the game’s first play, when Ramirez completed a 10-yard pass to Windish. It was the first time in at least a decade the Trojans opened with a pass, according to Coach Todd Hollis. He said this game was by far his team’s best this season, something Vallas also suggested.
“Some guys flipped the switch tonight,” Hollis said. “(Farmington) had some big plays and we rebounded from some big plays and didn’t climb into a shell. It’s OK to be sad and upset that you lost a game, but the effort is totally worthy of praise. And honestly, the productivity was totally worthy of praise.
“It was a four-point ballgame. You can’t ask for a whole lot tighter than that. Toby was nervous right to the end.”
Knoxville routed an ailing Mercer County, 44-0, and outgained the Golden Eagles 404-103. All of Knoxville’s yards came on the ground and Nolan McClay carried 13 times for 213 yards and three scores for the Blue Bullets. … Macomb traveled south to Breese and got thumped 38-18 by Mater Dei (4-1), which ran for 250 yards and passed for 128. Macomb QB Braden Holthaus was 13-for-22 for 268 yards and three scores and tossed one interception. But the Bombers were held to minus-4 yards on 24 rushing attempts and Holthaus was sacked six times. … Illini West (3-2) rolled past winless LVC 46-6.