Elkin’s football team might be wishing it was a member of the Western Piedmont 2-A Athletic Conference right now.
The Buckin’ Elks’ defense dominated the second half of Friday night’s showdown with defending WPAC champion North Surry, shutting out the host Greyhounds after halftime and coming away with a 21-17 victory.
Boone Beaver crashed into the end zone from three yards out after just 53 seconds of the fourth quarter, capping off a 61-yard drive that gave Elkin the lead for good. The Elks stopped North Surry on its final two offensive possessions and improved to 2-0 on the season for the first time since the 2009 season.
“That’s better than the alternative,” said Elkin head coach Scott Wood of being 2-0. “This is a bunch of young kids and they just play hard. They play with a lot of heart. That’s all you can say about them.”
Despite a shellacking of another WPAC team, Surry Central, last week, Elkin came into North Surry as a 25-point underdog according to NCPreps.com. And for a while, that prediction looked spot on. The Hounds came out on fire, despite shaky offensive line play. Nick Badgett ran the opening kickoff back to the 46-yard line, and on the first play of the game, quarterback Chase Swartz found Jordan Shelar for an 18-yard gain. North Surry took a 3-0 lead on a 42-yard field goal by Ethan Evans before everyone was even settled into their seats.
The Hound defense forced Elkin into a three-and-out, and then Swartz went back to work, overcoming a 19-yard holding penalty with two passes to Badgett, then hitting Shelar for a first down at the Elkin 14. On third down, Swartz rolled to his right, found Badgett open in the end zone, and hit him for the score with 5:05 left in the opening period to make it 10-0.
Wood and his players knew they had to do something about Swartz, or the Buckin’ Elks were going home as Buckskins.
“A quarterback like that, you have to do something to get him out of his rhythm, because he’s good,” he said. “Our secondary got a little better as the game went on, and our defensive line. We chased him all night and finally got to him a little bit.”
In the meantime, Elkin got its own offense going. As good as Swartz was, Elkin senior Tyjae Townsend proved to be dynamic as well. After the North Surry score, he hit Maston Renegar with a pass for a 19-yard gain into Greyhound territory. Then Tyler Mayes got the call on a run in which he weaved his way through and around the defense, cutting back into the middle of the field and would have scored if he hadn’t lost his footing at the 19-yard line. Two plays later, Townsend found Mayes for a first down at the 7, and two plays after that, Townsend scored on a sneak with 15 seconds left in the first quarter to put his team on the board.
Despite the score, the home team remained in the ascendant. Swartz hit Badgett for 14 yards, Ryan Smith for 12, Badgett for 11 and Shelar for nine, then let Smith rumble down to the Elks’ 17 for a first down. However, the pass protection was still shaky, and Swartz was having to roll out of the pocket on most of his passes. It finally cost him moments later.
Flushed out yet again, Swartz rolled left and threw a pass downfield right before he would have been chased out of bounds. Townsend stepped in front of a North receiver at the 6-yard line and returned it to the 30.
There was a case to be made that Swartz could have thrown the ball away, but North head coach Danny Lyons didn’t blame him for the turnover.
“He’s a warrior, but we have to protect him. When he’s got time, he’s the best quarterback we’ve ever had,” said Lyons. “But we have to give him time. That’s the summary of the game.”
Regardless, Elkin’s signal-caller made the Hounds pay for the turnover. On second down, Townsend ran for 23 yards and a first down at the North Surry 36. Two players later, he completed a pass to Mayes for 14 yards and a first down at the 18. Mayes picked up 10 more on a run, and then on third-and-goal, Townsend got in from three yards out with 6:19 left in the second quarter to give Elkin a 14-10 lead.
Swartz and Smith overcame more poor line play on the next North Surry offensive series and got the Hounds the lead back, despite Smith having a 70-yard touchdown run called back. Swartz overcame that to covert two fourth downs in the red zone, one on a pass to Smith and the other on fourth-and-3 from the Elks’ 7, where he hit Tanner Woods at the 1. Woods bulled his way into the end zone with 75 seconds left in the first half, and the Hounds took a 17-14 lead into the half.
Smith, who was already banged up in North Surry’s first game, was unable to continue after intermission. With Smith out of the game, the Hounds had to depend on inexperienced players at the position. Elkin’s defensive line simply pinned its ears back and came after Swartz, who had riddled them for 148 passing yards in the first half. But Lyons wouldn’t use that as an excuse.
“They were rushing four and we block with five,” said Lyons. “I told the team ‘that’s on me.’ We’ve not been good on the offensive line in either game, the quarterback is taking too many hits, (and) I’m the offensive line coach. We’re going to get it corrected one way or the other.”
The Hounds, who didn’t punt in the first half, punted twice, lost the ball once on downs, and had an interception on the last of their four offensive series in the second half.
Elkin’s defense, led by Austin Longworth, Jose Navarro, Graylon Hughes and Josh Ferguson, controlled the line of scrimmage and had Swartz running on almost every Greyhound offensive snap.
The Elks regained the lead on their third series of the second half, which began with 1:14 left in the third. Brett Beaver turned a third-and-long into a 50-yard pass reception and a first down at the North Surry 15 on the first play of the fourth quarter. A 12-yard keeper by Townsend set up Boone Beaver for the winning score.
North got into Elkin territory on the next series, but Hughes and Navarro teamed up on a sack that forced the Hounds to punt.
Starting at its own 5-yard line after the punt, Elkin picked up three first downs before punting it back to the home team with just 1:55 left. Ferguson then sacked Swartz on first down. Shelar made a circus catch for a first down at the 35, but then Swartz went long under severe duress and Brett Beaver picked it off near midfield, returning it to the North 5-yard line with 1:14 left in the game. The Elks then ran out the clock.
Elkin will travel to Mount Airy next week, while the Hounds will look to bounce back at East Surry.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.