Elks top Cavaliers, punch ticket to 2A State Final
Estep rushes for 255 yards and 3 TDs as Elkton wins, 21-6
— 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
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.”
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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.
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.
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.