Elk­ton fi­nally breaks through

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By ADRIAN MARTIN

Spe­cial to the Whig

Joe Scud­eri vividly re­calls the long trip back from North Caro­line a year ago.

The Bull­dogs ended Elk­ton’s sea­son with a dom­i­nant 36-15 vic­tory in the 2015 2A East Re­gion ti­tle game. It wasn’t the fin­ish the Golden Elks, who lost just one game all sea­son head­ing into that con­test, had in mind.

“I re­mem­ber on the bus ride home, just feel­ing dev­as­tated,” said Scud­eri, se­nior line­backer and cap­tain. “We got back in the weight room and grinded all sea­son. We’ve been work­ing since our loss last year.”

Elk­ton re­turned a solid core, and when it was re­vealed that the Elks would face North Caro­line again in the re­gional fi­nal, they only had one word on their mind: redemp­tion.

Elk­ton head coach Matt Feeney saw the re­solve in his play­ers’ faces all week in prac­tice.

“They didn’t for­get,” he said. “They re­minded them­selves of it in the off­sea­son and in the weight room. They wrote the date down. When we found out we’d be play­ing them and it was go­ing to be here, the mes­sage was clear. We ex­pe­ri­enced the taste and now we know what it takes to win. I had zero doubts that the guys weren’t go­ing to come out and fight for their lives tonight.”

With the fren­zied home crowd be­hind them, the Elks turned last year’s re­sult on its head with a 33-20 win. Af­ter be­ing sti­fled by the Bull­dog de­fense last sea­son, the Elks ran right through it

ELK­TON—

ad­just­ments, but I hate to say it, but we just said, ‘Hey, get off your feet for a few min­utes and just re­lax and we’re go­ing to go out and we’re go­ing to keep do­ing what we’ve been do­ing.’ It al­most bit us,” Elk­ton coach Matt Feeney said. “In the sec­ond half, my hat is tipped be­cause they put to­gether a sec­ond half plan that was top-notch and I wouldn’t ex­pect any­thing less from [Bull­dogs] coach [James]

McCormick. I mean, that guy is as good as it gets.

“But in the first half we ex­e­cuted.”

Af­ter three-straight car­ries by Estep on the game’s open­ing drive placed the Elks at the North Caro­line 23, quar­ter­back Jack­son Ar­goe lofted a pass to fel­low se­nior J’Qwan Ben­son, who hauled it in over a de­fender for the early score.

It was nearly all Estep for the re­main­der of the half, as the speedy ju­nior run­ning back pro­duced touch­down runs of 11, 73, 13 and 48 yards, re­spec­tively, en route to break­ing the pro­gram’s

sin­gle-sea­son rush­ing record. He ended the night with 295 rush­ing yards on 28 car­ries.

Estep now has 2,280 rush­ing yards on the sea­son.

“The o-line, they got me off to a good start. I found the holes and hit them,” said Estep, who, in the first quar­ter, passed for­mer Elk­ton run­ning back John Triplett’s 2001 mark of 2,032 sin­gle­sea­son rush­ing yards. “We’ve been work­ing since Jan­uary to get here and we’re fi­nally here.”

Fri­day’s vic­tory came just one sea­son af­ter Elk­ton fell to North Caro­line in last year’s re­gion fi­nal.

“In the sec­ond half, they came out swing­ing hard. They were fight­ing, they wanted to win this game, but we wanted it more. We dug down deep and our de­fense man­aged to stop them,” Elks

de­fen­sive end Mar­quis Byrd said. “I’m ex­cited. I just can’t wait to play foot­ball. I’m glad I’m play­ing more games with my broth­ers.”

Fol­low­ing half­time, North Caro­line show­cased the power of­fense that al­lowed it to up­set top-seeded Kent Is­land a week ago.

The Bull­dogs (9-3) opened the third quar­ter with a score af­ter run­ning back David Bai­ley crashed into the end zone on a 7-yard run to cap a 66-yard drive. The vis­i­tors then forced Elk­ton to punt, be­fore Bai­ley pro­duced per­haps the most im­pres­sive play of the night when he es­caped the grasp of three would-be tack­lers and found fel­low run­ning back Luke Ruffo for the 12yard scor­ing strike.

North Caro­line then re­cov­ered the en­su­ing on­side kick and marched 34 yards be­fore full­back Al­lan Saathoff rum­bled into the end zone on a 1-yard run to pull the vis­i­tors within two scores in the fi­nal sec­onds of the third frame.

“We got our butts kicked, that’s what hap­pened in the first half. Elk­ton had a good

game plan, the Estep kid is a spe­cial player and we couldn’t pull his flag. I think we were a lit­tle shell­shocked and it took a while for us to wake up, get our feet un­der us and set­tle down,” McCormick said. “We talked and we made a cou­ple lit­tle ad­just­ments at half­time. We told the kids, ‘Look, just set­tle down, get your feet un­der you, let’s get some first downs, get some points on the board, get things rolling and see what hap­pens.

“You take those lit­tle steps, let those lit­tle steps add up and see what you can get done, but un­for­tu­nately we didn’t have enough time to get 33 points on the board. It was the tale of two halves. Our first half was pretty bad and our sec­ond half didn’t quite make up for it.”

With Estep on the side­line bat­tling cramps, se­nior run­ning back CJ Sewell took the ma­jor­ity of the car­ries on Elk­ton’s ex­tended fourthquar­ter drive, car­ry­ing the ball four times for 30 yards, in­clud­ing a 17-yard burst that guided the of­fense into the red zone. While they didn’t score, the Elks gave

the ball back to North Caro­line deep in its own ter­ri­tory with lit­tle time re­main­ing to com­plete the come­back

“We were a lit­tle bit ner­vous af­ter the last touch­down [by the Bull­dogs], but once we went on the long drive [in which] we didn’t score but we ate up a lot of the clock, it got our con­fi­dence back,” said Ar­goe (7for-11 pass­ing for 112 yards and a touch­down). “We needed to get back to our sense of ur­gency.”

A de­flected pass on de­fense by Estep on fourth down ef­fec­tively sealed the vic­tory with mere sec­onds re­main­ing in the con­test. The ju­nior also scooped up a fum­ble late in the sec­ond quar­ter af­ter fel­low de­fen­sive back Mike Matthews forced a turnover on a tackle at the Elks 4-yard line.

“[My mind­set was] to help the team as much as I can, get this win and get redemp­tion,” Estep said. “It wasn’t a good feel­ing last year los­ing to [North Caro­line] but we got them back.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

Ris­ing Sun play­ers stand in shock af­ter los­ing the fifth set of its 3-2 loss to Wil­liamsport in the 2A state vol­ley­ball cham­pi­onship Satur­day at Univer­sity of Mary­land’s Ritchie Coli­seum.

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