WEST JEFFERSON - A furious Elkin comeback bid came up seven points short Friday night in West Jefferson.
Trailing 28-7 at the half, the Buckin’ Elks stormed back and cut the lead to 42-34 with 1:20 left in the game. After the Huskies recovered the ensuing onside kick, a quarterback keeper for the first down ended Elkin’s comeback chances and sealed the win for Ashe.
“We came out and dug ourselves in a hole. They fought back [at the end of the half], and to be honest, if we had another half a second or another half a yard, we would have been in,” head coach Scott Wood said. “In the second half, we said that we were going to win. We came out in the third quarter and our defense was flying around and played the best defense we played all year. That’s what we want to get back to and that’s what we’re going to take from this game.
“If we had another three minutes, we would have beat them. We just can’t let ourselves get into a hole like that,” he continued.
Sophomore signal-caller Josh Strickland powered the Elks’ second-half surge with four touchdowns after the intermission, with two on the ground and two to electrifying wideout Jamiles “Chunky” Hayes.
“When you play quarterback, you just have to get in the groove. In the first half, we could just never get into rhythm on offense or defense,” Wood explained. “We had a little pow wow at halftime and we just told them to put their shirt tails in and just go out there and play football.
“We maintained drives. We didn’t do anything different play wise, we just couldn’t get a rhythm going. It was the same gameplan we used in the first half, we just executed a lot better,” he added.
Hayes scored on a thrilling 59-yard screen pass to ignite the third-quarter surge before hauling in the final score of the night on a four-yard strike.
Strickland found the endzone on two one-yard scores, while Seth Creed scored from one-yard out to round out the scoring.
Ashe scored the first 14 points of the game, capitalizing on a early Elkin fumble, before a Kody King interception set up the Elks deep in Husky territory.
Creed scored two plays later on a one-yard burst to trim the lead to 14-7.
One minute later, Ashe struck again from three yards out. After fumbles on back-to-back play, Strickland was picked off at the 26-yard line, setting up a 52-yard touchdown on a screen pass to extend the Husky advantage to 28-7.
Elkin threatened at the end of the half after a facemask penalty on a long Hayes kickoff return set up the Elks at the Ashe 46.
Four plays later, Strickland broke free on a 16-yard run to the 30 on 4th-and-10. Strickland then found Chris Hudspeth on a crossing route to the two.
The sophomore was stuffed on a run over left tackle as time expired in the half.
After forcing a turnover on downs at midfield to begin the third, Strickland found the endzone to trim the lead to 28-14.
The Elkin defense forced another punt before Hayes darted through the Husky defense, breaking tackles en route to an electrifying 59-yard run to bring the Elks within one possession at 28-20.
Ashe stopped the burst with back-to-back touchdowns over a four-minute span to push the lead back out to 41-20.
But Elkin battled back as Strickland connected on three-straight passes before plowing in from one-yard out to cut the lead to 41-28 with just over four minutes left.
After Ashe recovered an onside kick, the Elks forced another punt. Elkin caught a break when the Husky punter’s knee touched on the play, giving Strickland and Co. the ball at the Ashe 38.
Strickland found Hayes on a four-yard strike to bring Elkin within seven at 41-34 with 1:20 left on the clock.
The Huskies jumped on a second Elk onside kick attempt before running out the clock on a first-down run to seal the game.
Elkin’s record drops to 2-2 on the year with the loss, including a 1-1 mark in the Mountain Valley Conference.
A banged up Elkin squad head into their bye week before hosting Starmount in the annual Battle of the Bridge September 21.
“Going into the bye week, we have some things to work on and get some people healed up. We’ll get ready for the next ballgame,” Wood said. “Our opponent for this week will be Elkin High School. We’re going to work on coming out and playing football in the first half. We can’t wait to midway through the second half to get mad about something and play.
“I just hate to come up short. As hard as these kids fought, you hate to see them come up short,” he added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.