By Adam Baum, firstname.lastname@example.org
It may have been unexpected, but opportunity doesn't care about expectations, it only cares whether or not you're prepared to seize it.
The plan was for Luke Masminster to play linebacker this season at Elder, but all too often in football, even the best-made plans fall apart like a house of playing cards.
On Saturday night in a 41-12 win over Oak Hills in The Pit, Masminster, a junior, made the most of an unexpected opportunity on offense with 17 carries for 112 yards and four touchdowns, to go with 45 yards receiving.
When senior running back Jack Mazza, a co-captain, went down in the preseason with an injury -- one that head coach Doug Ramsey said Mazza will return from this season -- Masminster checked into the office on offense.
"He was already second team, so he was our backup guy playing defense," Ramsey said of Masminster. "And honestly, I think he wants to be here (playing running back).
"It was funny, when we first moved him full-time to defense, he kind of looked at us like, 'So you're just saying I'm gonna be a backup.' He went through a practice and then some of the defensive coaches were saying, 'You can be a starter; we want you to start on defense; you're that good.'
"And then three, four days later, Mazza gets hurt."
Masminster said, "It was pretty immediate. As soon as he went down, I was still with the defense, but I was doing offense the entire time, so I was ready."
Scoring four touchdowns against the Highlanders, Masminster said, "It was awesome. I didn't expect to get that much. Our line did great. We just did what we were supposed to do. The line ... I didn't get touched until I got to the linebackers."
Elder played solid in every facet Saturday. Not only did Masminster do his thing on the ground, senior quarterback Danny Nieman lit up the Highlanders through the air, connecting on 16-of-19 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Nieman said, "I think we came out and executed after the first offensive set. We were able to move the ball and dominate up front and when we can do that, we're a scary team."
On Masminster's performance, Nieman said, "He's no setback for sure. He experienced last year and Mazza was out all summer so he was able to jump right in and pick up where he left off."
Ramsey said, "I thought we had some good balance and we didn't make too many mental mistakes. I think our skill guys are pretty darn good and our line is starting to play really well these first couple weeks. But, we're gonna have some big tests coming up, so we just gotta keep getting better. Our schedule from this point on is brutal. Next week, Gahanna (Lincoln) has some guys and then you go into the Cleveland (St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward) games and the league games."
Speaking about his defense, Ramsey said, "We ran around and hit them. Their quarterback (Jake Woycke) is really good. He's a really good player so we had to contain him. The only series that bothered me was the first series of the second half when they went down and scored. It wasn't so much them scoring, it's how we did it -- a couple penalties, missed tackles, it's almost like we went out and said, 'this game's over,' but beyond that, I think our defense played really well."
The Panthers' defense was physical and efficient, keeping Oak Hills from finding any sort of flow offensively. Oak Hills rushed 14 times for a net of five yards, while Woycke was 17-for-26 for 164 yards and a touchdown.
"Comes down to us making plays again," said Oak Hills head coach Kyle Prosser. "First series, we drop two wide-open passes and not taking any credit away from coach Ramsey and those Panthers -- that's a tough, well-disciplined ball club -- and we gotta get to that point. We gotta listen, we gotta trust and we gotta do what we're coached to do. We were in a position to make plays tonight; we just didn't do it."