On a beautiful night at Heidkamp Stadium in Huber Heights, one of the Miami Valley’s fiercest rivalries played out in front of an overflow crowd. It was Homecoming at Wayne as the 8th ranked, 4-1 Warriors welcomed the 5th ranked, 5-0 Elks. These two teams have been the football heavyweights over the years in the Miami Valley which added to the buzz of excitement in the air.
As the first quarter got underway, the Warriors received the opening kickoff. The Elks defense held up and forced a Wayne punt which was downed on the 3-yard line. The offense then took the field to try to make an early statement and boy did they do just that as they calmly mixed in some nice passes with some equally nice runs. The end result was a 97-yard touchdown drive culminated when senior quarterback Alec Grandin hit senior wide receiver Donnie Shelton with a 24-yard pass to the end zone. Brandon Walters’ PAT gave the visitors a 7-0 lead with 8:28 left in the first quarter. Lightning then struck on the Warriors’ ensuing possession as senior defensive back Riley Poulton picked off a pass and returned it all the way to the Wayne 3-yard line. Senior running back Ross Harmon punched it in from there and the huge home crowd was sitting in stunned silence watching what was unfolding in front of them. Brandon Walters added the extra point and the Elks had a 14-0 lead with 7:04 left in the first quarter. Like most great teams do, the Warriors responded on their next drive and got on the board when Laurenz Johnson hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass from Rashad McKee. A successful PAT from Garrett Russell cut the Elks lead to 14-7 with 6:10 left in the first quarter. The Elks once again drove the field and appeared to score their third touchdown of the night, but it was called back by a penalty. Wayne’s defense held up from there and the Elks had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Walters. The kick was good and the Elks had a 17-7 lead with 1:14 left in the first quarter. Wayne responded right away as Ohio State bound wide receiver L’Christian Smith slipped behind the defense, hauled in a long pass from McKee and outraced the defense for an 83-yard touchdown pass. Russell’s extra point made the score 17-14 in favor of the Elks with just 49 seconds left in the first quarter. That would be the sore at the end of the quarter and the fans on both sides were excited to see how much fun the final three quarters would be between these two heavyweight.
The defenses dominated the second quarter as the scoring slowed way down. The Elks drove deep into Wayne territory as time was running out, but a penalty and sack stallled that drive. Wayne got the ball back with a little more than a minute left. After converting a third down, McKee hit Smith on a short crossing route and he rumbled deep into Elks territory. Wayne had time for two more plays, but were unable to get the ball in the end zone. Russell kicked a 25-yard field goal as time expired and the two teams headed to the locker room with the Elks holding a 17-16 lead.
The Elks received the opening kickoff of the second half and were unable to get a first down. Walters got off a pretty good punt which was misjudged by the Wayne return man who tried to make a diving catch. The ball bounced off of him and was pounced on by Poulton quickly swinging the momentum back in favor of the visitors. The ofense capitalized from there and the drive culminated when Grandin hit senior wide receiver Jake Spiewak with a bubble screen which he turned into a 20-yard touchdown with some nice moves and excellent downfield blocking. Walters’ PAT gave the Elks a 24-16 lead with 7:08 remaining in the third quarter. As they had done all night, the Warriors answered on their next possession when freshman Austin Mullins got loose behind the defense and hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from McKee. The Warriors decided to go for two and the tie, but the Elks defense deflected the pass to maintain a 24-22 lead with 5:40 left in the third quarter. On the next possession, the Elks were unable to generate much and punted the ball back to the Warriors. As the third quarter came to a close, the Warriors were driving and looking to take the lead for the first time all night.
Early in the fourth quarter, Wayne was facing a third and five. A 4-yard completion from McKee to Smith brought Wayne withing inches of a first down. From there, they elected to play it safe and kick the go-ahead field goal on fourth down rather than risk not getting the first down and giving the ball back to the Elks. That decision turned out to be huge and completely swing the momentum of the game back in favor of the visitors when Poulton and senior defensive back Dominic Ramsey busted through the line and blocked the Warriors’ kick. Senior Ross Garrett scooped up the loose ball and had a convoy of teammates lead him down the field for an 83-yard touchdown. Walters’ PAT gave the Elks a 31-22 lead with 11:02 left in the game. Wayne drove downfield once again and were facing a fourth and three as they desperately tried to get back in the game. However, the Elks’ defense stepped up and made a huge stop to take over possession. The Elks then started running the ball with effectiveness and finished the drive when Shelton took an end around 24-yards to the end zone. The Elks then decided to go for two to make it a three possession game and converted when Grandin ran it in on a keeper and the Elks had a 39-22 lead with 6:28 left to play. The Warriors drove downfield again and looked poised to score until Poulton jumped on a fumble on his own 1-yard line to halt the drive. Following a punt, Ramsey jumped in front of a pass and returned it to the Wayne 8-yard line with a minute left to put the game on ice. The Elks then ran out the clock and celebrated a huge, 39-22 victory.
On Saturday morning, the JV teams played at Centerville Stadium and that game was won by Wayne, 58-21. That was followed by the freshman game which was won by the Elks, 36-0.
Now 6-0 on the year and 2-0 in the NL East, the Elks return to Centerville Stadium next Friday night for homecoming as they welcome the Lebanon Warriors for a 7:00 PM kickoff.