Elks’ season ends with crushing loss in state final
Elkton overpowered by Walkersville, 33-6, in 2A state championship
— The Elkton football team crashed the Class 2A postseason party and inserted itself in the state championship game
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.”
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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.
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.