Nordonia coach Jeff Fox called his team’s trips to Mayfield Friday and Saturday "the longest two days of my life."
What Fox witnessed was a tale of two very different games — maybe even three games — over the course of two days.
On Friday, Nordonia was overwhelmed by the Wildcats, as Mayfield build up 27-0 lead before the contest was suspended due to lightning midway though the second quarter.
"Mayfield’s offensive unit this year is very good," Fox said. "Our offense turned the ball over, we had some other mistakes and they jumped us."
However, Nordonia made some adjustments during the 21-hour weather delay and came back at Wildcats on Saturday. Aided by a few onside kick recoveries, the Knights rattled off 23 unanswered points. The rally petered out late in the third quarter, however, as Mayfield went on to a 43-23 win.
Nordonia dropped to 1-2 with the loss, but Fox was encouraged by the fight his team showed.
"It’s part of the maturation process for this team," Fox said. "It was a totally different team [Saturday]. I’m excited to see how this group of young men learns and grows from here."
Fox said he didn’t believe the Knights came out flat against the Wildcats, but noted execution issues hurt Nordonia in the first quarter and a half.
"We made some mistakes and Mayfield has a great defensive front," Fox said. "They attacked us."
Nordonia had an interception and had two drives stall on downs in Mayfield territory early.
The Wildcats got a 2-yard touchdown run from Joey Suchy, a 19-yard tocuhdown pass from Michael Huss to Billy Guzzo, a 23-yard touchdown run from Joey Isabella and a 3-yard touchdown run from Clay Cunningham to take the 27-0 lead.
According to Fox, the delay was just what the doctor ordered for the Knights.
"We got to settle in and calm down, mostly," Fox said. "We played much better in the second and third quarter."
Nordonia got on the board with an 8-yard yard touchdown pass from Billy Levak with 2 minutes left in the first half. The Knights then recovered an onside kick, but Levak was intercepted on the final play of the first half.
The Knights then marched the second-half kickoff down the field and the drive culminated with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Levak to Jonathan Banks.
Nordonia then recovered another onside kick. This time, the Knights were able to get a 30-yard field goal from Andrew Lastovka, cutting the lead to 27-16 with 6 minutes left in the second half.
After forcing the Wildcats to punt in Knight territory, Nordonia hit its biggest play of the night. Levak hit Joel Jones with a 94-yard touchdown pass with 4:30 left in the third. Lastovka’s extra point cut the deficit to 27-23 with 4:30 left in third and the Knights had all the momentum.
However, the magic ended at that point for the Knights.
Mayfield’s next drive culminated with a 12-yard touchdown run from Huss. On the Knights’ next drive, Levak was tackled in the end zone for a safety, which made the score 36-23 after three quarters.
Off the ensuing free kick, a 10-yard touchdown run from Huss with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter made it 43-23.
Nordonia’s offense continued to self-destruct in the fourth quarter, as both of its drives ended with interceptions.
It was a roller coaster of a game for Levak. The junior went 18-of-40 for 300 yards passing three touchdowns, but he also threw four interceptions and was sacked three times. He ended up with minus-28 yards rushing.
"We were being very aggressive," Fox said. "Turnovers definitely hurt."
Sal Perrine led the Knights with 71 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Nordonia was unable to contain Mayfield’s rushing game, as the Wildcats ran for 273 yards in the contest. Suchy led the Wildcats with 152 yards on 22 carries.
Nordonia will attempt to regroup this week as it’s set for a backyard rivalry game to open Suburban League National Conference play. The Knights will travel to Twinsburg Friday at 7 p.m.
"I knew they’re well coached. Coach Mike Bell does a great job with them," Fox said. "We’ll get after it. We’re behind a little bit because of the delay."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO