By Will Johnson                                                                                                                                                             Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – The Elkhart Elks kicked off the 2016 football season on a drizzly Friday night, as they welcomed the Shelbyville Dragons to town. The Elks were less than hospitable hosts as they allowed the Dragons to draw to within a touchdown with less under two minutes before extinguishing the Dragons’ fire with a 42-28 win.

Elkhart received the opening kickoff to start the game and took possession at their own 31 yard line. After picking up a first down and moving across the midfield stipe, Elkhart’s DJ Williams found a crease in the Shelbyville defense on the fourth play from scrimmage and took the rock 44 yards to pay dirt. The extra point attempt was no good but before the fans had a chance to settle into their seats, Elkhart led 6-0.

The rest of the quarter was defensive struggle as neither team was able to cross the goal line. The Elks, however, mounted a drive before the quarter came to a close and as the second period got underway, Elkhart QB Hunter Bush found WR Justin Davis on a wheel route for a 24 yard scoring strike.

The extra point was no good, but the Elks now led 12-0 and pushed their lead out to 20 on their next possession. The two teams traded punts, but when the Dragons tried to field Ross Rampy’s kick, disaster struck. The Shelbyville returner fumbled the punt into the end zone and Elkhart’s Brandon Smith was able to come out of the scrum with the ball and six points.

The Elks went for two after the TD and this time they made it to push the Elkhart lead out to 20-0 as the first half game to a close.

While the two quarters belonged to the Elks, the second half started out with Dragons trying to seize the momentum. On their first possession after the half, Shelbyville RB Terrell Cartwright burst through the line and scampered 47 yards for a touchdown.

The extra point was no good, but the Dragons had cut into the Elks’ lead and draw even closer the next time they had the ball.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Shelbyville defense forced the Elks to punt. On the attempt, a Dragon broke through the line, blocked the Rampy punt and recovered the ball at the Elkhart 8-yard line.

Two plays netted two yards for the Dragons, but on the third play, Cartwright bulled his way across the goal line for his second TD of the quarter. He also added the two point conversion to bring the score to 20-14.

Williams and the Elks showed their mettle on Elkhart’s next possession. After nearly losing possession on the Shelbyville kickoff, Williams scored his second TD of the game on a 52 yard burst to extend the lead back to 13 after the PAT.

It seemed the Elks had put the Dragons as the fourth quarter got underway when Bush found the corner and rambled down the sidelines for a 66 yard score. After the extra point, Elkhart was up by 20 once again, with the score 34-14.

As the clock crept under five minutes, Shelbyville showed they weren’t going to quietly go away. Cartwright scored from outside the 20 to whittle the Elkhart lead to two scores and added another TD on a bit of trickeration moments later to bring the Elkhart lead down to six with less than two minutes to go.

The Dragons attempted an onside kick to no avail and when the clock crept under a minute, Williams salted the game away with his third touchdown of the night. This time, Williams scored from 58 yards out to bring the scoring to an end and give the Elks a win in their season opener by a final score of 42-28.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.