The varsity football team traveled to Evans Stadium on a frigid Friday night looking to pick up their second win of the season there and their second win over Columbus area powerhouse Pickerington North. Unfortunately for the Elks, the offense was as frigid as the temperatures and never got going in this game.
The first quarter was a battle of defense as neither team could put up any points. The Elks made a goal line stand on the Panthers’ first possession and the offense suffered one of their six turnovers on the night, but the game remained scoreless heading to the second quarter.
As the second quarter got underway, both offenses continued to struggle moving the ball and this game looked like it was going to be a defensive struggle the entire evening. On their second drive of the second quarter, the Panthers finally put together a scoring drive and hit pay dirt when Jack Sawyer hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Weirick. William Shalawylo’s PAT gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 6:52 left in the first half. The Elks continued to struggle with the ball, but the defense again held up and forced another Panthers’ punt. However, disaster struck on the next play as Eli Davis stepped in front of a screen pass and raced 15 yards to the end zone for a game-changing pick six. Shalawylo’s PAT put the Panthers up 14-0 with 3:20 left in the first half. Following a quick first down, the Elks fumbled and the Panthers made them pay on the very next play as Weirick connected with Ty Wiley with for a back-breaking 52-yard touchdown pass. Shalawylo’s third PAT gave the Panthers a commanding, 21-0 lead with 3:08 left in the first half. On the Elks’ next possession, disaster struck again as Tyler Potts stepped in front of a pass and weaved his way 60 yards to the end zone for another pick six. Shalawylo’s PAT made it 28-0 with 2:49 left in the first half. The Elks and their fans were stunned as the Panthers’ 21 points in 31 seconds had turned a close game into a rout just before halftime.
At the start of the second half, the Elks tried an onside kick to try to change the momentum, but the Panthers were able to recover the ball and the offense would take advantage of the great field position. Weirick scrambled in from fifteen yards out to cap the drive and Shalawylo’s PAT made the score 35-0 with 9:47 left in the third quarter and prompted the running clock rule with the 30-point difference. The Elks put together a nice drive on their next possession and finally dented the scoreboard when senior quarterback Alec Grandin hit senior wide receiver Donovan Shelton from 10-yards out on fourth and goal. The 2-point conversion was no good and left the Elks trailing 35-6 with 3:21 left in the third quarter. The defense once again stopped the Panthers and got the ball back for the offense who was driving when the third quarter came to an end.
Early in the fourth quarter, Grandin hooked up with Shelton again, this time from 24-yards out. Another failed two-point conversion left the Elks trailing 35-12 with 11:24 left in the game. Following a quick three and out, the Panthers botched a punt due to a high snap and the Elks were in business at the 30-yard line giving their fans a glimmer of hope they might see an amazing comeback. However, on the very next play, a Panther defender picked off a pass inside the ten-yard line to end that threat and any chance of an Elks comeback. To add insult to injury, on the second play after the interception, Weirick hit Wiley with a screen pass and the speedy wide receiver used a nice block and a couple of nifty moves to score a 91-yard touchdown and extinguish the last flicker of hope for the Elks. Shalawylo’s PAT put the Panthers up, 42-12 with 9:22 left in the game. The Elks’ offense was unable to move the ball after that and turned it over on downs and the Panthers then ran out the clock on offense and punched their ticket to the regional finals next Friday night. In that game, they will get a rematch with the only other team to beat them during the regular season when they face a very familiar foe, Pickerington Central.
The Elks finish an amazing season at 10-2 as GWOC National League East Champions and also picked up their first playoff win since 2010. A huge THANK YOU to this years’ seniors who truly showed what Elk Pride is all about and paved the way for many more years of continued success. Also, a huge shout out to first-year head coach Brent Ullery on guiding this team to a great year and providing the fans with many exciting moments.