Elks open season eager for return to playoffs
— 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
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
Junior running back Raiquon Estep returns for Elkton after rushing for 1,504 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
Senior linebacker Joe Scuderi will command the middle of the Elkton defense following an All-County campaign last season.