By Will Johnson
ELKHART – It was Homecoming Weekend in Elkhart and the stands were packed with current and former students cheering on the Elks as they took on the Troup Tigers, Friday, Sept. 9. Prior to the kickoff, Kimber Douglas was crowned as Homecoming Queen while Alex Thlang was selected as the Homecoming King.
Once the pregame festivities concluded, the two teams got down to the business of football and engaged in a 48 minute slobber knocker. The Tigers opened the game with possession and marched down the field behind the running of Ricardo Martinez, the passing of Weslee Ross and the receiving of Josh Parker.
The Tigers managed to get inside of Elk territory and reached the 30, but a fourth and three pass from Ross fell incomplete, which allowed Elkhart to take over on downs.
On their first possession of the game, it appeared the Elks were still enjoying the pre-game revelry as Troup forced Elkhart to punt, after a three and out.
Following the kick, the Tigers took over at their own 34. A first down incompletion and a loss on second put Troup in a third and long situation. The Elks were hit with a bit of bad luck on the next play when a Ross pass which should have been intercepted settled into the hands of Parker for a 26 yard gain.
Elkhart’s defense was solid, however, and forced Troup into a fourth and one. Once again, Ross and Parker came through for the visitors as they connected on a 28 yard scoring strike for the first points of the game. Iban Rojo drilled the PAT and at the 4:08 mark of the first quarter, Troup had staked an early 7-0 lead.
The Elks next possession also ended with a punt. Things began to look dismal on the Elkhart sideline as the Tigers mounted a drive from their own 48 that began with a tipped pass hauled in by Parker for 23 yards.
The catch moved the chains to the 25 and when Ross found Parker for another reception, the Tigers were in the Elkhart red zone. At that point, it appeared as if Elkhart woke up. Parker was thrown for a four yard loss on an end around. Ross misfired on second down and then completed a pass for 1 yard Martinez on third and 13.
ced with a fourth and long, Ross threw towards Parker in the end zone. His pass, fortunately for the Homecoming crowd, was under thrown which allowed Johnathan Simmons to make a leaping interception. Simmons returned the ball out to the 35 and after a late hit penalty on Troup, the Elks set up shop at midfield.
A steady dose of DJ Williams with a few runs from Simmons moved the ball inside the 10 yard line. From there, Williams picked up seven more, but just when it appeared Elkhart was going in for a possible tying score, disaster struck. On third down, Williams took the handoff from QB Hunter Bush and powered his way towards the end zone. As he fought to cross the goal line, the ball was knocked loose and the Tigers pounced on it at the half yard line.
The Tigers mounted a long, sustained drive and moved deep into Elkhart territory. Once again, they were stymied by the Elkhart secondary as Justin Wolford stepped in front of a Ross pass to effectively end the first half with the Tigers ahead by a score of 7-0.
Apparently Elkhart Head Coach Sam Wells used the right choice of words to motivate his squad during the break because when they came out of the locker room to start the third quarter, they looked like a completely different team.
The Elks started the second half with the ball at their own 35 and on their first play from scrimmage, Williams picked up 10. He gave two yards back on second down but on third down, the Elkhart fans saw something they hadn’t seen the entire first half. On the play, Elkhart QB Hunter Bush dropped back to pass and spotted WR Trent Huff flying down the sideline. Bush hit Huff in mid-stride and Huff did the rest as he outraced the Troup defenders to the end zone. With just under a minute gone in the third quarter, Jacob Walters converted the extra point and Elkhart had tied the game at seven.
After the two teams exchanged punts, the Elks untied the game as they put 14 points on the board in a span of less than 90 seconds. An Elkhart drive after a Troup punt was capped off by a Simmons 10 yard TD run with 4:26 left in the period.
On Troup’s ensuing possession, a fumble at their own 20 yard line gave the ball right back to Elkhart. A pass interference penalty in the end zone moved the ball inside the five and Bush took it the rest of the way. After Walters hit the extra point, Elkhart led 21-7 as the teams headed into the final 12 minutes of play.
The Tigers put up an early fourth quarter touchdown from Trent Allen but were unable to do any further damage as Wolford picked off his second pass of the night to seal the Homecoming win for the Elks.
Following the game, Coach Wells was asked what he said to his team at halftime. He smiled and said, “We saw some things we thought we could take advantage of and made some adjustments here and there. We came out and executed. They had a little fire in their belly.”
As to the first half goal line fumble, Wells said he thought Williams had crossed the goal line, “…but sometimes that happens. We were able to overcome that and kept on playing.”
On the TD throw from Bush to Huff, the coach remarked, “it caught them off guard. We took advantage of some of the things they had been doing in the secondary.”
The win moves the Elks record to 2-1. Elkhart is off next week and will begin district play on Friday, Sept. 23 as they travel to Westwood for a game against the Panthers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.