Bulldogs Ousted In Region Final
Elks roll to second Class 2A East championship in last three years
RIDGELY — On the same Friday as the nation’s longest win streak came to an end in the Class 2A West football championship, another upset took place in the 2A East.
Weathering two lead changes early in the first half, No. 2 seed Elkton rolled past unbeaten top seed North Caroline, winning 24-13 to seize the program’s second regional crown in three years.
“Two in three seasons, yeah,” said Elkton head coach Matt Feeney, whose team erased a 7-3 secondquarter deficit with three straight touchdowns, handing the Bulldogs (11-1) their only loss of 2018. “We’ve seen them three times over the last four years, and we knew we’d have a tough fight on our hands.
“They’re there every year, man,” Feeney added. “They’re tough.”
Elkton (10-2) got things going with a quick drive off the opening kickoff, a 52 yard pass by quarterback Nolan Null to Trevin Ewing setting up a 30-yard Jake Bosler field goal which put the guests up 3-0 just over two minutes into play.
“You want every point; you
every point, especially when you’re playing a team like this,” Feeney said. “But they responded. They came in, and they put up some points . ... But we’re just blessed that we’ve got some guys that are resilient.”
The Bulldogs had no answer on their first possession, though it started well, with a 25-yard Joey Bildstein carry on the first snap putting the team at midfield. The teams exchanged punts, and the hosts got things going the second time around.
Setting up shop at the Elkton 47 five minutes into the game, the Bulldogs moved into the red zone five plays in, thanks to a 24-yard Bildstein run. He took it around left end on the next snap, scoring from seven yards out, and Will Manship kicked the point-after to make it 7-3 with 5:04 to go in the opening frame.
The Elks moved well on the next drive, but were eventually brought up short on fourth down at the Caroline 28. A couple more uneventful possessions led to a 7-3 home-team lead after one, but in the second quarter, everything changed, on both sides of the ball.
The North Caroline defense, which had stymied opposing rushing attacks in a Bayside Conference not known for passing, found itself facing a three-dimensional threat, with Null able to nearly pinpoint receivers for much of the night.
The combination of a strong passing attack and a running scheme which proved more than adequate, too, led to two big scores by the Golden Elks.
With repeated success at pass plays and a steady diet of solid gains on the ground, Elkton took the lead — for good, as events later proved — when Null found DahMear Triplett back in the left corner of the end zone for a four-yard score. The Bosler PAT made it 10-7.
The visitors extended their lead with another touchdown at the five-minute mark, a 7-yard run by Tashawn Watters.
Bosler, an All-Cecil-County star in soccer in 2017 who left the pitch to kick for the football team this fall instead, nailed that PAT, too, to make it 17-7. The 10-point margin marked the greatest deficit the Bulldogs had seen all season; they trailed
just twice all year, 3-0 in Week 8’s win over Easton, and 7-0 the next week after visiting James M. Bennett scored on the game’s first possession.
As the second period wound down, what both coaches agreed was the biggest play of the night took place.
North Caroline, driving after the second Elkton touchdown, converted a fourth-and-7 from the guests’ 39-yard line when quarterback Casey Byrd, doubling as team punter, faked it and hit J.B. Brown in the left flat for a 29-yard gain, to set up first-and-goal at the 10.
Ryan Bauer, who played lockdown defense as a cornerback all night, batting away no fewer than four Null passes, which otherwise looked right on the money to intended receivers, dashed 9 yards on the next carry, to the 1-yard line. A flag for illegal motion led to a second-down try from just outside the 5-yard line, which netted Bauer 2 yards.
A Byrd overthrow into the rear left corner of the end zone set up a fourth-andgoal from three yards out.
After the incompletion, North Caroline head coach James McCormick called a timeout, the Bulldogs needing to put points on the board to cut the deficit.
Knowing his team would receive the second-half kickoff, McCormick chose not to set Manship up for a 19-yard field goal. Instead, he chose to go for it. His logic, when asked, was simple.
“I thought of it, but knew we couldn’t. We weren’t going to win the game by kicking field goals,” McCormick said. “With their [Elkton’s] ability to put points on the board, we just couldn’t kick a field goal.
“And we’ve been able to make it from a couple of yards out all year,” McCormick added. “If we can’t make this, then we’ve got to work on some things. This is the kind of stuff we’ve been able to do all season, punch it in from a yard out.”
But it was not to be this time, as Bauer rolled left on a sweep, but was knocked down by the speedy Aaron Hawkins, who met him a yard short of the end zone, forcing a turnover on downs.
“Oh, that was it,” Feeney said of the stop. “That was definitely the biggest play of the game right there. It kept us up two scores, we go into the half ahead by 10.”
“That was the biggest play,” McCormick agreed. “If we can score on that, it’s a three-point game, we come out second half and anything’s possible.”
The Elks locked down on defense in the third quarter, allowing just two home-team first downs as the Bulldogs, the cold wind blowing at their backs, threw just two third-quarter passes.
“The guy were just so strong on defense tonight,” Feeney said. “We knew we’d have a fight here — nobody comes to North Caroline High and blows them out. Nobody comes here and wins by 30-40 points. You know you’re gonna have a big battle, and I’m proud of our guys for fighting the way they did.”
The combatants traded interceptions in the fourth quarter, North Caroline picking off Elkton, but then giving the ball right back in the same manner on the next snap. Ewing’s 42-yard touchdown pass in the fourth period put the game all but out of reach. The Bosler PAT effectively served as the final dagger, as it made the score 24-7 — a three-score game — with under seven minutes to go.
North Caroline put together a final scoring drive, capped by a two-yard Bauer run. The two-point conversion failed, setting the score at its eventual final mark of 24-13, Elkton.
Elkton advances to the Class 2A state semifinals next week and will play at Oakdale, the West champ.
In perhaps the most heavily-hyped Maryland high school playoff game of the week, Oakdale upset host Damascus, the fourthranked team in the state’s media poll, 24-7, for the 2A West title Friday. The win by Oakdale ended a 53-game win streak by the Hornets, who had won three straight titles: the 3A in 2015 and 2016, and the 2A last year, during that run.
Oakdale, ranked sixth in the state media poll, defeated 2017’s 3A champ, Linganore, on the road as well, 56-7, in Week 6.
North Caroline’s Casey Byrd throws a pass for a completion Friday against Elkton.
North Caroline’s Montreyse Deshields finds a hole against Elkton Friday, Nov. 16.
North Caroline players Tucker Stevens (4), Carlton Johnson (48) and Kendron Wayman (7) stuff Elkton running back Tashawn Watters Jr. on Friday.
North Caroline’s Will Manship finds a hole Friday against Elkton.
North Caroline’s Ryan Bauser runs outside for a first down against Elkton Friday, Nov. 16.