By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – The Elkhart Elks welcomed the Centerville Tigers to Jerry Ives Memorial Stadium for their 2018 season opener seeking to improve from last year’s 3-7 record.

The Tigers had different ideas, however, as they had made deep runs in the playoffs the previous two years and were hoping for a third consecutive year of playing in December.

Centerville started the game with possession of the ball and used a trio of running backs – Calvin Gunselman, Gabe Castillo and Pate Leathers to move the ball inside the Elkhart red zone.

The Tigers’ drive stalled at the 17, however, and the Elks took over on downs. Elkhart moved the ball out to the 42 yard line, but a Landry Mays pass on fourth and five fell incomplete.

Centerville took over from there and once again moved inside the Elkhart 20. The Elks forced the Tigers into a pair of forth down situations, but just when it seemed the Elks had the Tigers hemmed up, Centerville would pick up the necessary yardage to keep the drive going which ended in a 3-yard Gunselman TD.

The extra point was no good but with 9:20 remaining in the second quarter, the Tigers led 6-0.

After a scoreless first quarter, Centerville scored their second touchdown of the game less than a minute later. The Tigers executed a successful onside kick that was recovered inside of Elk territory.

Two plays later, the Tigers were back in the end zone after Castillo broke loose on a 35-yard TD run. The try for two was good and just like that, Centerville led 14-0.

Following a Centerville turnover, the Elks went on a long time-consuming drive that ended when Landry Mays found Ky Thomas for a five-yard TD pass. Cade Starr knocked home the extra point and as the halftime horn sounded, the Elks trailed 14-7.

As the second half got underway, the two teams battled back-and-forth in the middle of the field. The Elks drove inside the Tigers red zone but turned the ball over on downs.

Centerville took over at their own 15 and drove out to midfield. In a strange twist, the sprinklers came on at the 8:41 mark of the third and two plays later, Centerville fumbled the ball to Elkhart.

The Elks returned the favor when Mays was intercepted as the Elks moved inside the Centerville 30. The Tigers, however, were stonewalled by the Elkhart defense and were forced to punt.

A high snap resulted in the Elks taking possession of the ball at the Tigers 20 yard line and after Mays hooked up with Thomas for 15 yards, John Ashford took the ball the remaining yards for a TD. Starr’s extra point was good and with 1:32 remaining in the quarter the game was knotted at 14.

The game remained that way until deep in the fourth quarter when a busted play gave the Tigers the go-ahead score.

The Tigers had the ball at their own 21 when Starr threw Castillo for a seven yard loss. An incomplete pass by Tigers’ QB Perry Minor forced Centerville into a third and long situation at their own 14.

The Elks applied heavy pressure to the Centerville QB who heaved a pass that looked to be heading towards an interception. Just when it looked like the Elks would regain possession and momentum, Centerville’s Bryce Williams plucked the ball out of the air and scampered 86 yards for the eventual winning score.

Following the game, AD/Head Coach Jason Fiacco said his team fought hard but made a lot of little mistakes which need to be corrected.

“This was Game One… our starting point,” he said. “We’re going to correct these mistakes and keep getting better. We’ll start watching film and get ready for next week.”

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