ELKIN - Elkin’s Josh Strickland had a career game in Friday’s football opener.
The junior accounted for all four of the Buckin’ Elks’ touchdowns in a wild 24-21 victory over local rival Forbush at a wet Grissom Stadium on opening night.
“Josh made a lot of plays tonight,” head coach Scott Wood said. “It was an ugly win, but it was a win.”
Strickland fired three touchdown passes on the night - including two to fellow junior Kody King - and returned an interception 48 yards to lead Elkin’s comeback charge.
Forbush jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on the road behind first-year starting quarterback Carson Fulp.
Fulp, who took over for departed starter Bennett Winslow in the offseason, led a 70-yard march down the field. The junior raced up the gut of the Elkin defense for an 18-yard score to cap the drive and give the Falcons a quick 7-0 lead.
The Elks answered two drives later when Strickland connected with Jamiles Hayes on a 25-yard strike. The ensuing extra point snap was fumbled and Forbush held a 7-6 advantage.
The Falcons responded immediately as Fulp plowed in from one yard out for his second rushing touchdown of the half to give Forbush a 14-6 lead.
Needing to points on the board heading into the locker room, the Elks took advantage of great field position on their final drive of the half.
Facing 4th-and-5 from the 20, Strickland hit King on a slant across the middle. King raced through the defense and dove into the endzone for the score with 1:49 left in the half. The two-point conversion failed as the Falcons took the 14-12 lead into the locker room.
After each team came up empty on their possessions in a scoreless third period, Strickland the Elks mounted a fourth-quarter comeback.
The junior signal-caller drove Elkin down the field, going 5-for-5 on the drive, hitting King on a bubble screen for the go-ahead, 35-yard score. The extra point was no good, but the Elks grabbed their first lead of the night, 18-14.
“The offense just started clicking on the drive. We went into the hurry-up and went down the field and did a good job,” Wood said. “Josh then came back and made a big interception.”
On the next snap, a floating deep ball by Fulp hung in the air as Strickland out-jumped a Forbush receiver for the ball. He out-ran the defense to the far side of the field and rumbled home for a 48-yard return to push the lead out to 24-14.
The 23-second scoring burst gave the Elks a seemingly comfortable 10-point cushion, but a fumble in their own territory gave Forbush life.
The Falcons took advantage as Fulp hit Cameron Butner on 34-yard strike down the left sideline to quickly cut the deficit to 24-21.
On the next drive, a 78-yard pass-and-catch to King was called back on a penalty as Elkin was forced to punt. Forbush took over at midfield with 2:53 left to play, looking for the game-winning score.
Fulp marched the Falcons to the 34, where they faced a 4th-and-6 with just over a minute to play. Fulp dropped a pass off to a running back in the flats, but King stopped the ball-carrier just shy of the first down on the defensive play of the night.
After a measurement, the Elks took over and ran out the clock to secure the thrilling 24-21 victory.
“We told them in the huddle that the game was on the line. We told them to step up and play,” Wood explained. “Kody made a great open-field tackle and drove him back. Big time players are supposed to make big time plays, and he made one on that play.”
Despite the victory, Wood said the team must “get better in all three phases of the game” while preparing for North Surry Friday night.
“Elkin prides itself in offense, defense and special teams, and we feel like we didn’t execute very well in any phase of the game tonight,” he said. “We have to get better in all three phases.
“We’re going to watch film hard and we’re going to get better.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.