ELKIN - Three weeks into the 2012 season, the Buckin’ Elks have already surpassed last season’s win total.
Elkin blew out cross-town rival East Wilkes 42-20 Friday night in “The Clash of the County Line” for its second win of the young season, topping last year’s lone victory.
“I’m not talking much about last season. We have to move forward with this season,” head coach Scott Wood said. “We still have some kinks to work out. All wins in the conference are big, but this one is big because they’re four miles up the road. A lot of these kids hang out together and it’s one of those games that these kids want to win.”
Quarterback Josh Strickland had a career night, accounting for four touchdowns, including three through the air to power the Elks.
Strickland connected on two scores with tight end Sam Lane and one more to wideout Chris Hudspeth. The sophomore added a fourth score on the night with a one-yard plunge.
Jamiles Hayes and Kody King found the endzone on nine- and 22-yard runs, respectively, to round out the scoring for Elkin.
Quarterback Zach West scored two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals. The junior found Jathan Sales in the endzone before running it in late in the third quarter.
Jordan Niten added East’s final score in the final minute of the game.
Defensively, Elkin forced five Cardinal fumbles on the night. Daniel Brinegar, Logan Newman, Seth Creed, Mitchell Abbey and King recovered loose balls for the Elks.
“We did create a lot of turnovers. It was humid tonight and the ball was hard to hold onto,” Wood explained. “We taught the kids that the first guy who gets there to hold them up and the other guys come in stripping, and they did that.
“One of our goals was to score on defense - we didn’t get that one tonight, but we did get good field position,” he added. “Overall, I’m pleased.”
Neither team was able to find the endzone in the opening 20 minutes, as Elkin punted twice in the first quarter and a half, while East Wilkes fumbled three times, losing the ball twice.
The Elks finally managed to break through, capitalizing on a pass interference penalty in the endzone when Hayes found paydirt from nine yards out to go up 7-0.
After Abbey forced and recovered a third Cardinal fumble, Strickland hit Lane on a 22-yard pass-and-catch to extend the lead out to 14-0.
Less than a minute later, King recovered East’s fourth fumble of the half before breaking free on a 27-yard score on the next play as Elkin scored three touchdowns over a 1:46 span to jump out to a 21-0 advantage.
East Wilkes nearly found the endzone on the last play of the half when Niten darted 35 yards before being dragged down at the one-yard line with no time left on the clock.
Elkin took the second-half kickoff down the field on a long drive - highlighted by three first-down runs by Creed - capped off by Strickland’s one-yard run.
Down four scores, East finally broke through at the end of the third quarter when West hit Sales on a fade route. Dalton Key ran it in on the two-point conversion play to cut the lead to 28-8.
The Cardinals forced an Elkin fumble on the next possession before West ran it in on a quarterback keeper to cut the lead in half at 24-14. Brinegar snuffed out another two-point conversion attempt.
With momentum shifting to East, Strickland powered Elkin down the field through the air. The sophomore connected with Lane on a big pass play before hitting Ted Shore down the right sideline to the 17-yard line.
Strickland then hit Hudspeth in the endzone to end the Cardinal scoring run.
After Brinegar recovered the Cardinals’ fifth lost fumble, Hayes darted free down the right sideline to the 25. Three plays later on fourth-and-long, Strickland sold a play fake to the right and came back to hit Lane on a screen pass to extend the lead out to 41-14.
East forced a fumble to keep their comeback hopes alive before Niten plowed in from two yards out with 31.7 seconds on the clock.
After no onside kick try, Strickland took a knee to preserve Elkin’s second win of the season and first Mountain Valley Conference win.
“They battled us hard in the first quarter, drove the ball the length of the field. Our defense was bending, but they didn’t break,” Wood said. “It took us a while to get on track offensively, but at the end of the second quarter it seemed like we just hit a run. We got to rolling; it was like a snowball.
“I was pleased with the play of our offensive line. They brought a lot of stunts at us, but they did a good job of picking it up,” he continued. “Josh made a lot of big throws in big situations; I’m proud of him for that. I’d like to see us pick it up on defense. It seems like sometimes when we get up, we relax a little bit on them, and that’s something we have to work on.”
With the win, the Elks moved to 2-1 and 1-0 in conference play, while East Wilkes fell to 0-3.
Elkin travels to Ashe County in Week Four with the Cardinals hosting defending conference champion Starmount in Ronda.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.