Elks open sea­son ea­ger for re­turn to play­offs

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— As it opens the reg­u­lar sea­son fol­low­ing last year’s 10-win cam­paign and trip to the 2A East Re­gion Fi­nal, the Elk­ton foot­ball team is fully aware of the chal­lenge that lays be­fore it.

The Golden Elks (10-2 over­all, 7-0 Susque­hanna Di­vi­sion) are now in the crosshairs as they at­tempt to make the play­offs in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons for the first time since 2005-08.

“We know that we’re going to have some tough com­pe­ti­tion through­out all the weeks ahead and we’re just going to have push through it,” said Elk­ton se­nior line­backer Joe Scud­eri, who earned All-County hon­ors last sea­son. “We’re just going to have come out ev­ery prac­tice and push each other like we have been.”

While the Elks have sud­denly tran­si­tioned from the hunters to the hunted, they will still take the field as a fa­vorite to re­peat as Susque­hanna Di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons and earn a post­sea­son berth. On of­fense, the team re­turns six mem­bers from a unit that scored nearly 30 points a game, while on de­fense, seven play­ers will once again suit up for a squad that posted five shutouts and al­lowed less than eight points per game.

“I feel like if this group goes out and just plays all out, that the scores, the re­sults, should take care of them­selves,” Elk­ton head coach Matt Feeney said. “It’s a tal­ented group.”

Still, there will be some grow­ing pains when the Elks

ELK­TON

host C.M. Wright in the sea­son opener next week­end as the team ad­justs to new lead­ers and new faces on both sides of the ball

Elk­ton grad­u­ated reign­ing All-County De­fen­sive Player of the Year Aziz White, Al­lCounty de­fen­sive line­man Mike Miller and hon­or­able men­tion line­backer Can­non Cul­ver. On of­fense, the team will look to over­come the grad­u­a­tion of All-County re­ceiver Zy’Phere Ruf­fin and fel­low wide­out Kyair Cook and All-County of­fen­sive line­men Dakota Hodg­son and Jeremy Hus­felt.

Aid­ing the team’s hopes of con­sec­u­tive play­off ap­pear­ances is the re­turn of ju­nior run­ning back Raiquon Estep, who ex­ploded onto the scene last sea­son as he rushed for 1,504 yards and 14 touch­downs on 120 car­ries en route to be­ing named All-County Of­fen­sive Player of the Year.

“I’m way hun­grier than last year,” said Estep, who dom­i­nated dur­ing the team’s re­gional semi­fi­nal play­off vic­tory over Kent Is­land when he ran for 265 yards and two touch­downs. “I’m try­ing to get 2,000 rush­ing yards and make a record, I guess. I’m also try­ing to get off to a good start.”

The win over the Buc­ca­neers came just one week be­fore a dis­ap­point­ing, 36-15, loss to North Caro­line in the re­gion fi­nal that ended the Elks’ sea­son.

“We’re hun­gry. We just want this ti­tle and we’re just try­ing to go all the way,” said se­nior de­fen­sive line­man Mar­quis Byrd, who re­turns af­ter be­ing named All-County in 2015. “That loss is most def­i­nitely still sit­ting with me. North Caro­line—I re­mem­ber that whole game.”

All-County hon­or­able men­tion quar­ter­back and de­fen­sive back J’Qwan Ben­son will turn the sig­nal caller du­ties over to in­com­ing se­nior quar­ter­back Jack­son Ar­goe, who trans­ferred to Elk­ton af­ter com­mand­ing the hud­dle at Car­avel (Del.) last sea­son.

“He’s been ev­ery­thing you would want in a high school quar­ter­back,” Feeney said of Ar­goe. “He’s a leader, he’s smart and he’s tal­ented. He throws a good ball but more than all of that he’s fit in here. I ac­tu­ally taught him when he was in fifth grade and he hasn’t changed at all. He’s the same kid. He’s al­ways a great kid to be around and the kids have grav­i­tated to him.”

Ben­son, a se­nior, will now play full time in the se­condary, join­ing Estep and Al­lCounty ju­nior safety Mike Matthews. He is part of a de­fense that is fo­cused on help­ing the team re­turn to the play­offs—and keep­ing op­po­nents off the score­board once it gets there.

“This year we have a lot of goals [on de­fense],” Ben­son said. “That [sea­son-end­ing] loss, it gives us that ex­tra juice that we need. I think when we do drills, we think about North Caro­line. When we do team de­fense, team of­fense [ex­er­cises in prac­tice] we think about North Caro­line and how we can fix it.”

Fol­low the 2016 foot­ball sea­son on Twit­ter: @UCBACFoot­ball

CECIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Ju­nior run­ning back Raiquon Estep re­turns for Elk­ton af­ter rush­ing for 1,504 yards and 14 touch­downs last sea­son.

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

Se­nior line­backer Joe Scud­eri will com­mand the mid­dle of the Elk­ton de­fense fol­low­ing an All-County cam­paign last sea­son.

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