Elks’ sea­son ends with crush­ing loss in state fi­nal

Elk­ton over­pow­ered by Walk­ersville, 33-6, in 2A state cham­pi­onship

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JORDAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— The Elk­ton foot­ball team crashed the Class 2A post­sea­son party and in­serted it­self in the state cham­pi­onship game

AN­NAPO­LIS

for just the sec­ond time in pro­gram his­tory, in part, be­cause of its abil­ity to dom­i­nate the line of scrim­mage on both sides of the ball.

But once on the big stage, the Golden Elks ran head­long into a big­ger, bad­der ver­sion of them­selves—and came away empty handed.

In the midst of a his­toric rush­ing sea­son, ju­nior tail­back Raiquon Estep found run­ning room early be­hind

his of­fen­sive line to stake Elk­ton to a one-touch­down lead in the first quar­ter. How­ever, the script was per­ma­nently flipped as top-ranked Walk­ersville over­pow­ered the third-seeded Elks in the trenches and posted a shutout over the re­main­der of the con­test to roll to a 33-6 vic­tory in the Class 2A state cham­pi­onship game on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium.

“We felt like we made some ad­just­ments that were go­ing to be ef­fec­tive in the sec­ond half, but, at the end of the day, it comes down to what hap­pens up front and they beat us up front. They beat us up front all night and that was the dif­fer­ence,” Elk­ton head coach Matt Feeney said. “Their front six, seven, they didn’t leave us much room to run, they put a lot of pres­sure on our quar­ter­back and that’s a recipe for not win­ning a foot­ball game.”

Estep, who en­tered the con­test al­ready en­joy­ing the 10th-best rush­ing sea­son in Mary­land his­tory, found the end zone on his team’s open­ing pos­ses­sion when he took a carry on fourth-and-4 and es­caped up the mid­dle for a 38-yard touch­down run that de­liv­ered Elk­ton (122) a 6-0 ad­van­tage.

The ju­nior then in­ter­cepted a de­flected pass near mid­field on the en­su­ing Walk­ersville drive, re­turn­ing the ball to the op­po­si­tion’s 7-yard line. How­ever, a block in the back dur­ing the re­turn re­sulted in the Elks tak­ing over on their own 40-yard line, and they were un­able to cap­i­tal­ize, punt­ing the ball away eight plays later.

“The in­ter­cep­tion and the block in the back, we could have been up two scores and that hurt. That could have been a big dif­fer­ence in the game,” Feeney said. “It felt like it was go­ing to be a fun night, but that’s a good foot­ball team and you knew in the back of your mind that this was just get­ting started, that they were get­ting warmed up, and they re­sponded.”

Af­ter both teams traded punts, the Elks saw their lead erased in the sec­ond quar­ter on a 3-yard rush­ing touch­down by Lions se­nior run­ning back Chad Glea­son that capped a five-play, 52-yard drive.

Af­ter a back-and-forth, low-scor­ing first half, the Lions out­matched the Elks in the sec­ond half. Elk­ton ju­nior run­ning back Raqi­uon Estep rushes with the foot­ball dur­ing the first half of his team’s 33-6 loss to Walk­ersville in the 2A state cham­pi­onship on Saturday at Navy–Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium in An­napo­lis.

Glea­son fin­ished with 23 car­ries for 104 rush­ing yards and three touch­downs for Walk­ersville (14-0), which se­cured the state crown just one year af­ter los­ing in the cham­pi­onship game last De­cem­ber to Patux­ent, 21-20. Fel­low tail­backs Ja­cob Wet­zel (re­ceiv­ing touch­down) and Ty Lit­tle­john com­bined for 17 car­ries for 85 yards, while quar­ter­back Billy Gant rushed for a score and threw for an­other.

On de­fense, Walk­ersville held Elk­ton to just 44 yards of to­tal of­fense over the fi­nal two quar­ters.

“Half­time was great. Coaches got to­gether, it was ac­tu­ally [of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Will] Gant, he just grabbed me and he said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get back to be­ing us,’”

Walk­ersville head coach Joe Polce said. “We made some ad­just­ments on the board in there and that’s what we did. Some block­ing ad­just­ments and just go­ing back to down­hill Walk­ersville foot­ball.”

Estep fin­ished with 16 car­ries for 56 yards—in­clud­ing just five car­ries for four yards in the sec­ond half—one week af­ter he posted 255 rush­ing yards and three scores in a 21-6 win over Calvert in the state semi­fi­nals. Saturday marked a bit­ter­sweet con­clu­sion to a re­mark­able sea­son for the ju­nior, who ended the year with 2,591 yards to fin­ish with the ninth-best rush­ing sea­son in state his­tory.

“It was a lit­tle out of sorts [in the first half]. Prob­a­bly some of that was my fault. That No. 6 [Estep],

he’s a great run­ning back, and I think it took us a lit­tle bit of time to catch up to his speed. But I think once we did, we were able to con­tain him the rest of the night,” Polce said. “He’s def­i­nitely one of the top backs in the state and I was prob­a­bly a lit­tle sur­prised [he only had five car­ries af­ter half­time].”

Estep re­flected on his ju­nior cam­paign, in­clud­ing a post­sea­son that saw him fin­ish with 770 rush­ing yards and 10 touch­downs.

“I had a good sea­son but I would rather have a cham­pi­onship,” he ad­mit­ted.

Ex­it­ing half­time, Walk­ersville forced a punt on the open­ing pos­ses­sion and fol­lowed with a 13-play, 59-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touch­down run by Glea­son.

Then, af­ter the Lions de­fense fell on a bad snap at the Elk­ton 23-yard line that soared over the head of se­nior quar­ter­back Jack­son Ar­goe, Walk­ersville scored again six plays later on a 12-yard pass from Gant to Wet­zel on fourth-and-9.

Gant added to the lead with a 1-yard rush early in the fourth quar­ter, while Glea­son sealed the win when he broke free on a 24-yard touch­down rush late in the last frame. The fi­nal score came on the same drive as a pair of un­sports­man­like con­duct calls against the Elks af­ter se­nior line­backer Joe Scud­eri (game-high 13 to­tal tack­les) was ejected for a per­sonal foul.

“We tried to come out and fight,” said se­nior Elk­ton de­fen­sive end Mar­quis Byrd (six tack­les). “This is a tough pill to swal­low, mak­ing it this far and just be­ing beat like this. It hurts.”

Ar­goe, an off-sea­son trans­fer from Delaware’s Car­avel Acad­emy, com­pleted 10 of 18 passes for 66 yards, in­clud­ing a long of 33, and two sacks for Elk­ton, which re­turned to the state ti­tle game for the first time since it won it all in 2000. Se­nior J’Qwan Ben­son fin­ished with six catches for 19 yards, while Tyrus Wood­ward hauled in two passes for 37 yards.

“You know, we had a hard time get­ting the ball to all of our play­mak­ers and that’s a tes­ta­ment to one of the best de­fenses we’ve seen all year. That’s one of the best de­fenses in the state of Mary­land,” Feeney said. “Hat’s off to them for putting to­gether a game plan for neu­tral­iz­ing our guys.”

Through­out the sea­son, Feeney mo­ti­vated Elk­ton by re­mind­ing his play­ers that the team had been la­beled by the main-stream Mary­land sports me­dia as a school with an out­side chance at mak­ing the 2A East Re­gion play­offs, let alone ad­vanc­ing to the state ti­tle game. Af­ter a dozen wins and the pro­gram’s long­est play­off run in 16 years, the Elks proved they be­long in the same con­ver­sa­tion as the other elite Mary­land pro­grams.

“We played the un­der­dog role, the pre­tender card, be­cause that’s what we were la­beled. We used it as fuel and it car­ried us pretty far and we made it to this point,” Feeney said. “We didn’t get the re­sult we wanted but we’re proud that we made it to this point.”

Fol­low Jordan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

Elk­ton se­nior de­fend­ers Joe Scud­eri (13), Tyler Du­rant (32) and Mar­quis Byrd (62) at­tempt to wrap up Walk­ersville run­ning back Ja­cob Wet­zel dur­ing the 2A state cham­pi­onship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium on Saturday. The Elks lost, 33-6.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

Elk­ton se­nior quar­ter­back Jack­son Ar­goe watches the fi­nal mo­ments of the 2A state cham­pi­onship game from the side­line. The Elks fell to Walk­ersville, 33-6, on Saturday at Navy–Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium in An­napo­lis.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

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