Golden Elks overcome turnovers, capitalized on Cobra mistakes to advance
by Gary Adornato
On a night when momentum appeared to shift on several occasions it was two key fourth quarter plays by visiting Elkton High that finally turned the tide in Friday’s Class 2A East Region semifinal football playoff game at Harford Tech in favor of the Golden Elks, allowing them to pull out a 21-14 victory.
After Harford Tech (9-2) struck for a quick score coming out of a long injury delay between the third and fourth quarters, to tie the contest at 14-14, Elkton sophomore Gregg Triplett sucked the air out of the stadium with a dazzling 51-yard run that provided the Elks (9-2 overall) with a first-and-goal at the Harford Tech 10. Two plays later Triplett sliced through the Cobras for a nine-yard TD run and a 21-14 lead with 9:54 to play.
The other key play came after what appeared to be a costly Elkton fumble at its own 22-yard line, with less than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter. With a first-and-goal from the Elkton nine, the Cobras went to the air and Tashawn Watters came up with an interception in the end zone for the Golden Elks and returned it near midfield.
“Coach has been preaching all week, we make our own breaks,” said Watters. “I saw the ball coming and I tried my best to make a play, and I did.”
Harford Tech made two more pushes, but Arron Hawkins stopped the next drive with an acrobatic diving interception, his second pick of the night, and later the Elks stopped Tech’s final drive on downs, near midfield, with less than 20 seconds to play.
With the field slick from heavy rains earlier in the day and a heavy mist falling throughout, both teams had problems holding onto the football.
“We kept it interesting,” said Elkton coach Matt Feeny of the turnovers. “We’d give it to them and we’d have to take it back. We’d give it to them and it was back and forth all night. I guess the conditions come into to play there, but the guys stepped up when they needed to step up. We got stops when we needed to get stops. I am really proud of those guys.”
On the night’s opening kickoff, Elkton’s Jakeem Jackson broke loose on the return and raced more than 60 yards before having the ball jarred loose from behind and recovered by Harford Tech at its own nine.
On the Elks second possession, they moved from their own 26 to the Harford Tech 36, thanks largely to three big runs by Triplett, but quarterback Nolan Null was hit as he threw on a third-and-12 play and the ball was intercepted by the Cobras’ Ike Udolisa.
Harford Tech capitalized this time, moving the ball 62-yards on 10 plays with senior star Jalen Dangerfield scoring on a 10-yard to run to give the Cobras a 7-0 lead.
Feeny said his team was fortunate to get the win with all of its miscues.
“We preach that from the day we come to camp. We have to win the turnover battle on Friday night or else we’re going to lose,” he said. “Sometimes you get some breaks your way, though, and we got lucky. We got lucky, but sometimes you make your own breaks. I feel like we did that; we made some of our own breaks as well.”
As it did later in the game, Elkton responded immediately.
Watters raced 68 yards with the first snap of the next series and later scored on a 1-yard run to even the game at 7-7. The Elks then took a 14-7 lead when Null threw a beautiful deep ball to a streaking a Michael Vass, Jr. for a 47-yard score, with 8:31 to play in the opening half.
Tech tried to counter, mounting a 14-play, 57-yard drive only to fumble the ball back to the Gold Elks at the six-yard line.
Watters returned the opening kickoff of the second half 40-yards, setting up Harford Tech near midfield. The Cobras then advanced to the 21 before Tech QB Ryan Hunt suffered his first interception of the night, this one also in the end zone, by Hawkins.
Late in the third quarter, Harford Tech’s Logan Seling walked off the field with trainers complaining of neck stiffness. He was eventually taken from the field by ambulance, out of an abundance of caution, for further examination at the hospital, causing the game to be delayed for nearly 40 minutes between the third and fourth quarters.
When action resumed, Harford Tech responded immediately. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Dangerfield turned a short pass into a 34-yard gain and, on the next play, Jeremiah Minter sprinted around the right edge and raced 43 yards for a score.
Triplett’s big runs in the next series, however, proved to be the beginning of the end of the Cobras.
Both teams had big nights in the running game. Elkton’s Triplett led all rushers with 217 yards on just 10 carries. Watters added 84 yards rushing for the Elks. Dangerfield was the workhorse for Eastern Tech, carrying 27 times for 119 yards. He also caught six passes for 101 yards.
“It’s never good to lose,” said Harford Tech coach Tim Palmer. “We came out here, we expected to win. Elkton came out here to battle. They had a great game plan. They played hard and I applaud them on their effort. The better team won and we wished them well the rest of the way.”
Palmer also had high praise for his own team.
“It was a tough season for us. We faced a lot of adversity, personal adversity, and we were able to fight through and still have a pretty good record. I have a team of champions and they showed it tonight. We fought to the bitter end.”
Next up for Elkton is the winner of Saturday’s other 2A East semifinal between Parkside and North Caroline. According to Watters, it is the next step on the road to where the Golden Elks want to be.
“Two years ago we went to the states and that’s our goal to get back there again,” said Watters. “We’re going to continue to work hard during the week and try to get another victory.”
2A EAST REGION SEMIFINAL
(at Harford Tech)
ELKTON 21, HARFORD TECH 14
ELK 7 7 0 7 — 21
HT 7 0 0 7 — 14
HT – Jalen Dangerfield 10 run (Tyler Long kick)
ELK – Tashawn Watters 1 run (Jacob Bosley kick)
ELK – Michael Vass 47 pass from Nolan Null (Bosler kick)
HT – Jeremiah Minter 43 run (Long kick)
ELK – Gregg Triplett 9 run (Bosler kick)