The varsity football team traveled to Springfield High School last night to take on the state’s seventh ranked team in a special Thursday Night Lights game. The Elks were hoping to rebound from their home loss to Fairmont last Friday and earn a first place tie with mighty Springfield atop the GWOC standings.
The Elks started the game with the ball and drove into Wildcats territory before the defense came up with a big stop on fourth and inches inside the 40-yard line. On the Wildcats ensuing possession, the defense had two opportunities to get off the field on third down, but the Wildcats converted both times on their way to a 2-yard touchdown run from Ta’Sean Smoot. Cole Yost’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter. The Elks offense went three and out on their next possession and punted the ball back to the Wildcats. A short punt put the ball on the Elks 46-yard line to start the drive. The Wildcats quickly moved the ball downfield and scored when Larry Stephens hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Smoot. Yost’s PAT gave the Wildcats a 14-0 lead with 1:18 left in the first quarter. The Elks offense struggled once again on their next possession and went three and out. Following another short punt, the Wildcats started at their own 48 with 10 seconds left in quarter one. On their first play of the drive, Jeff Tolliver broke through the defense and raced 52 yards to the end zone. The Elks blocked Yost’s PAT attempt leaving the score at 20-0 with three seconds left in the first quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, time ran out and the Wildcats took a 20-point lead to the second quarter.
The offense was able to drive deep into Wildcat territory on their next drive, but were stopped on another fourth down at the 12-yard line. Taking over the ball, the Wildcats quickly picked up a first down and then burnt the Elks as Stephens got behind the defense and hauled in a 72 yard touchdown pass. Yost’s PAT made the score 27-0 with 5:21 left in the first half. On the Elks next possession, their final one of the first half, the offense once again moved the ball downfield. This time, however, they made the drive pay off when sophomore quarterback Chase Harrison hit sophomore wide receiver Cam Smith with a 5 yard touchdown pass on fourth down. Sophomore Brendan Salo added the PAT and the Elks had cut the lead to 27-7 with 1:07 left before halftime. The defense kept the Wildcats from scoring on their next drive and time ran out in the first half. As both teams headed to their respective locker rooms at halftime, Springfield had a 27-7 advantage.
The Elks surprised the Wildcats with an onside kick to start the second half, but were unable to get any points out of it after again being stopped on fourth down in Springfield territory. The defense held up and got the offense the ball back, but the clock was rapidly ticking away. The third quarter came to an end with no points being scored. As the game headed to the final twelve minutes of play, the Wildcats still had a 27-7 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Harrison and Smith connected again, this time from 17 yards out. Salo’s PAT trimmed the Springfield lead to 27-14 with 11:43 left in the game. For the second time in the half, the Elks executed an onside kick and got the ball right back for the offense. This time, they did not let the opportunity slip away and drove downfield where they scored again on a one yard run by Harrison. Salo added the PAT and suddenly the Elks were within six at 27-21 with 8:25 left in the game. Electing to kick the ball deep, the Wildcats took over on their own 20. On the first play of the drive, the defense had the ball carrier stopped in the backfield, but could not bring him to the ground. After escaping the tackle, he reversed field and raced down the left sideline for a 45-yard run. Once again, the defense had an opportunity to get off the field on third down and were unable to stop the offense. Tolliver made them pay by racing around left end for a 22 yard touchdown run. Yost’s PAT extended the Wildcats lead to 13, 34-21, with 5:23 left in the game. The Elks, however, refused to go away. Facing a fourth and six on their own 34, the offense elected to go for it and converted big time when Harrison hit a streaking Will Jackson-Linkhart down the right side for a 66 yard touchdown. Salo’s PAT pulled the Elks to within six again at 34-28 with 5:23 left in the game. The Elks elected to kick the ball deep once again and the Wildcats again converted on third down with a long pass down the middle to Larry Stephens. Forcing another third down at the 34 yard line, the defense forced an incomplete pass and the Wildcats elected to go for it on fourth down. The Elks called for a blitz and junior Noah Holmes delivered a big hit on the quarterback which knocked the ball loose. Chad Lugo fell on it and the defense had forced the game’s only turnover giving the ball back to the offense on their own 39 with a little over two minutes left in the game. Two short completions on first and second down left the Elks facing a third and six on their own 43 as the clock was rapidly approaching one minute left to play. A third down pass went right through the hands of a receiver bringing the game to a crucial fourth down. Just like the Elks had done on the previous possession, the Wildcats came with a blitz and forced Harrison into an incomplete pass, giving the offense the ball back on the Elks 43 with one minute left in the game. The Elks had all three timeouts remaining so the defense needed to make one more stop. Unfortunately, Tolliver carried the ball twice, the second resulting in a 30 yard touchdown run. Yost’s PAT extended the lead to 13, 41-28, with just 49 seconds left in the game. On their next possession, the Elks drove into Wildcats territory, but ran out of time and dropped a 41-28 decision. It was an incredible second half effort by the Elks against one of the state’s best teams.
Harrison finished the game by going 29-47 for 365 yards and three touchdown passes and added another one on the ground. Jackson-Linkhart hauled in an impressive 12 receptions for 205 yards and a score and Smith caught nine passes for 116 yards and two scores.
On Friday night at CHS, the freshman team defeated the Wildcats, 35-20. That was followed by the JV game which was won by the Elks in a shootout, 46-41. That is Springfield’s first loss of the season.
Now 4-4 on the year and 2-2 in league play, the Elks play their final road game of the season next Friday when they travel to Clayton to take on a dangerous Northmont team. Kickoff next Friday night at Northmont High School is set for 7:00 PM.