Elks top Cava­liers, punch ticket to 2A State Fi­nal

Estep rushes for 255 yards and 3 TDs as Elk­ton wins, 21-6

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— Elk­ton junior Mike Matthews left his cleat be­hind as he hob­bled across the torn up field in the direction of his team­mates gath­er­ing in the end zone, the de­fen­sive back smil­ing from ear to ear.

He wasn’t the only player vis­i­bly limp­ing to join the throng of Golden Elks cel­e­brat­ing the school’s big­gest vic­tory in 16 years.

Third-seeded Elk­ton faced its most phys­i­cal op­po­nent of the post­sea­son yet—and passed, once again re­ly­ing on its suf­fo­cat­ing run de­fense and the legs of run­ning back Raiquon Estep to up­set host No. 2 Calvert 21-6 in the 2A state semi­fi­nals on Fri­day and punch its ticket to the state cham­pi­onship game for the first time since 2000.

The Elks (12-1), win­ners of

PRINCE FRED­ER­ICK

11-straight, ad­vance to face topseeded Walk­ersville of Fred­er­ick County in the 2A state cham­pi­onship at Navy-Marine Corps Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in An­napo­lis on Dec. 10.

“I’m just happy for the boys,” Elks coach Matt Feeney said. “I’ve never been in this po­si­tion. It’s new for me, it’s new ter­ri­tory, and none of those boys in there have ever ex­pe­ri­enced this, so we’re all just go­ing to en­joy the mo­ment to­gether. It’s just ex­cit­ing.”

Estep con­tin­ued his string of eye-pop­ping rush­ing num­bers this post­sea­son, fin­ish­ing the con­test with 255 rush­ing yards and three touch­downs on 25 car­ries. The junior de­liv­ered the game’s open­ing score with an 18-yard touch­down run in the sec­ond quar­ter, be­fore help­ing the Elks make it 14-0 by tak­ing a pitch 68 yards to the end zone early in the fourth quar­ter.

Estep then ef­fec­tively sealed the win with just un­der three min­utes left when he es­caped for a 41-yard touch­down. His score came two drives af­ter Calvert (11-2) pulled within one score with its own rush­ing touch­down mid­way through the fourth frame.

“It was less wait­ing [for Estep to break out] and it was more just deal­ing with a nasty front. That

was a good de­fense. Those lineback­ers fill hard and they made our guys work a lit­tle harder tonight,” Feeney said. “We al­ways know it’s a mat­ter of time. He was pa­tient, he didn’t shut down and even­tu­ally popped them when he needed to pop them. It was fun to watch.”

The Cava­liers en­tered al­low­ing just 11.6 points per game.

“They were hold­ing our gaps a lot but our o-line, they moved them like they’ve moved peo­ple all year, and they gave me just a lit­tle crease and I hit it,” Estep said.

One week af­ter al­low­ing 20 unan­swered points in the third quar­ter against North Caro­line in the East Re­gion Fi­nal, the Elks re­bounded to al­low just one touch­down to Calvert, when quar­ter­back Jack Lan­ham rum­bled into the end zone on a 5-yard run to make the score 14-6.

Ja­cob Didra then missed the ex­tra point to keep it an eight-point game.

“We told our­selves that we did not want them to score again and we made it hap­pen,” Elk­ton se­nior de­fen­sive end Mar­quis Byrd said. “The run­ning backs were def­i­nitely good but we just stopped them when we had to do it.”

The Elks’ open­ing score came af­ter they gen­er­ated a de­fen­sive stop on third down and Didra missed a 34-yard field goal at­tempt wide right. Elk­ton then re­sponded by driv­ing 80 yards on six plays, be­fore Estep emerged untouched up the right side for the touch­down.

“I was ac­tu­ally think­ing, ‘That’s great but we need another [touch­down]. We need to keep on go­ing,’” Elk­ton se­nior guard Kyle Karnes said of the early tally. “I was ner­vous all the way un­til the fi­nal sec­ond.”

Elk­ton’s sec­ond touch­down came af­ter another stop by its de­fense.

Lead­ing 7-0 and fac­ing fourth-and-2 at its own 22yard line, the Elks de­fense stuffed a run up the mid­dle that pro­duecd a turnover on downs and thwarted a Calvert drive that had spanned 11 plays and 70 yards.

Four plays later, Estep hauled in a short pitch from quar­ter­back Jackson Ar­goe and raced for the 68-yard score.

“Ray, with those cuts and ev­ery­thing, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to stop him,” Karnes said. “We got man on man and that’s it. It’s all she wrote.”

Se­nior run­ning back Levi Brick­ner led Calvert with 82 rush­ing yards on 13 car­ries. He was one of three run­ners on the team, in­clud­ing the quar­ter­back, who en­tered the game with over 700 yards rush­ing and at least nine touch­downs on the sea­son.

“We just keep throw­ing chal­lenge af­ter chal­lenge at [the de­fense] and they keep ris­ing up. They re­ally feed off of the talk. ‘This de­fense has given up less points per game.’ ‘This de­fense is be­ing talked about at a state level and you’re just the pre­tenders.’ They thrive on it, they feed on it. We’re just go­ing to keep play­ing that un­der­dog role,” Feeney said. “We’re the un­der­dogs again. We’re play­ing the No. 1 seed next week. We like the role and we’re go­ing to roll with it.”

The vic­tory came four years af­ter the Elks lost in the 2012 2A state semi­fi­nals. They be­come just the fourth team in Ce­cil County his­tory to ad­vance to the state ti­tle game, join­ing Elk­ton in 2000, Bo­hemia Manor in 2002 and Per­ryville in 2011.

“I was walk­ing up here talk­ing to one of my as­sis­tants and I said, ‘Think about where we were Weeks 3 and 4. The per­son­nel changes, the ad­ver­sity that we had to deal with. It’s been a roller coaster. Am I sur­prised that we’re here? No, I’m not sur­prised. But it’s been a tough road,” Feeney said. “We’re go­ing onto week 14 now, we have guys that are banged up, and we just have to rise above it and just keep grind­ing.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter:@Jor­dan_Whig

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

Elk­ton junior run­ning back Raiquon Estep turns up­field dur­ing the third-seeded Golden Elks’ 21-6 vic­tory over host No. 2 Calvert in the 2A state semi­fi­nals on Fri­day. Estep fin­ished with 255 rush­ing yards and three touch­downs.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

Sev­eral Elk­ton de­fend­ers com­bine to tackle Calvert run­ning back Jeremiah Long dur­ing the first quar­ter of the Golden Elks’ 21-6 win over the host Cava­liers in the 2A state semi­fi­nals on Fri­day.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

Elk­ton play­ers hud­dle up prior to their show­down with host Calvert in the 2A state semi­fi­nals on Fri­day. The Golden Elks went on to win 21-6 to ad­vance to the 2A state cham­pi­onship game.

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