Elks Defeat Panthers, 35-34

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – The Westwood Panthers traveled to Jerry Ives Memorial Stadium last Friday to take on the Elkhart Elks in the opening week of league play in District 9-AAA DI. Last year’s matchup was a thriller as the Elks defeated the Panthers by a field goal, 31-28.

This year’s game was just as close and once again it came down to the kicking game as the contest went into OT. The Panthers struck first in the extra period of play as they got a seven yard TD run from Jailyn Tatum to make the score 34-28. Justin Ramirez had been perfect on the night in the PAT department, but in the overtime period his extra point was no good, following the Tatum TD.

The Elks took over on the ensuing kickoff and marched deep into the Westwood red zone. John Ashford barreled his way across the goal line from three yards out to tie the score at 34 and when Jacob McSwane’s extra point attempt split the uprights, the Elks had escaped with a 35-34 win.

The scoring fest opened with a bang as Johnathan Simmons took a handoff from Landry Mays early in the first quarter and broke free on a 70-yard gallop for the game’s first score. McSwane knocked the extra point home and staked the Elks to a 7-0 lead.

Westwood came storming back to knot the score at 7 after Jamar Clewis was able to find a crease in the Elk defense and bull his way into the end zone from nine yards out. Ramirez converted the PAT to even things up and send the game into the second quarter with the score 7-7.

The second quarter belonged to the Panthers as they dropped 21 points on the Elkhart defense. As the second quarter got underway, Panther QB Jesaiah Axum found Jaren Turner on a swing pass out of the backfield. Turner caught the ball in stride and strolled into the end zone from 18 yards out. The Martinez extra point attempt was good as the Panthers took a 14-7 early second quarter lead.

Elkhart evened the score on their next possession as John Ashford broke free on a 29-yard scoring romp, followed by the XP from McSwane.

The Panthers struck back quickly and opened up a 14 point halftime lead behind a 55 yard scoring run from Tatum and an eight yard TD from Axum. Martinez converted both PATs and at halftime the scoreboard read Westwood 28 and Elkhart 14.

Whatever Elkhart Head Coach Sam Wells said at halftime, it appeared to light a fire under both the defense and the offense. First, the defense pitched a shutout over the next 24 minutes while the Elkhart offense found its rhythm in the third quarter as the team scored on a 55 yard TD from Ashford and a 25 yard run into the end zone from Mays. McSwane’s extra points were good and after three quarters were in the books, the game was tied at 28.

The game remained tied throughout the fourth quarter as the defense took center stage. Neither the Elks nor the Panthers could generate anything offensively and at the end of regulation, the score remained knotted at 28.

As the OT period got underway, the Panthers struck first when Tatum found pay dirt at the end of a seven yard run. The Elks struck back when Ashford plowed across the goal line to tie things at 34 and then with no pressure whatsoever, McSwane calmly booted the extra point through the goal posts to send the Elkhart fans into delirium as the Elks eked out the 35-34 win.

The Elks are on the road next week as they take on the West Trojans in West. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6.

The Panthers return home next week for a game against the Whitney Wildcats. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6.

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