ELKIN — Trailing winless East Wilkes 28-6 with 3:25 left in the third quarter, the Buckin’ Elks simply got “ticked off” and came out swinging.
Josh Strickland hit Kody King on a 12-yard fade route in the right corner of the end zone to kick-start a furious rally, before Cory Anderson picked off Chris Ward near midfield. Strickland followed by calling his own number from eight yards out before hitting King on the two-point conversion.
King then added the biggest play of the night on the very next play — forcing a fumble, scooping up the loose ball and scampering 30 yards untouched for another score. Daniel Brinegar hauled in the ensuing two-point attempt as Elkin roared back to knot the game at 28-28, capping a wild final 2:12 of the third quarter.
The defense forced a quick three-and-out to open the final frame, setting up King’s heroics. On the first play of the following drive, the junior hauled in a 61-yard bomb from Strickland and shrugged off an East Wilkes defender into the end zone. Jamiles Hayes then ran in a trick-play, two-point conversion to give the Elks’ their first lead of the game, 36-28.
Elkin shut down the Cardinals again on defense, forcing another three-and-out, giving the ball back to the red-hot offense.
The Strickland-King connection took advantage, coming up huge once again, connecting on an 88-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to push the lead out to 42-28, putting the finishing touches on a wild 36-0 run over eight minutes.
From there, the Elkin defense held tough to ice the thrilling 42-28 victory in the Battle at the County Line.
“For the lack of better language, we got ticked off,” Elkin Head Coach Scott Wood explained, laughing. “The kids got to the point where their backs were against the wall and we had to find a way out…and they did. Why we waited that long to do it? I don’t know.
“It seems like when our offense goes, our defense goes. I can’t explain it. The kids just decided to play, that’s it,” he added.
King said the Elks knew what they needed to do, but it was simply about executing.
“This was a tough-fought win,” he said. “But we came out and did it though. They played tough, but we came out in the second half ready to go. Coach Wood gave us a talk and told us that we had to do what we had to do. And we just came out and put it up.”
The junior finished with 199 yards receiving with three touchdowns and a two-point catch.
The 36-0 scoring burst by the Elks spoiled East Wilkes’ bid for its first win of the season after dominating for two-and-a-half quarters on the road.
Levi Ray got the Cardinals off to a fast start, picking off Strickland on Elkin’s first drive, returning the ball into the red-zone.
Ray then scampered in from five yards out to put East on the board first less than three minutes into the game, 7-0. Jordan Niten extended the lead out to 14-0 with a one-yard plunge midway through the second.
After Brinegar ran in a wide-receiver screen for the Elks to trim the lead to 14-6 three minutes later, the Cardinals marched down the field late in the half.
East had four chances from the 5-yard line, but Elkin’s defense stood tall, stuffing all four running plays — including a tackle for loss by King on fourth down — to head into the locker room only down 14-6.
The Cards continued their strong play to open the half as Niten scored his second touchdown of the night to push the lead out to 21-6.
On the next play, a high snap was recovered by Chris Dixon to set up East at the 5. Two plays later, Zach West rushed up the gut to extend the advantage out to 28-6.
“I called them all in and told them that we needed to score one before this quarter is over. We ended up scoring three. They turned it on and went,” Wood said.
And the Elks did turn it on, reeling off 36 unanswered points to take control in the game. Wood said once his team gets going, it is hard to stop.
“East Wilkes came out and ran that option well and controlled the ball, and that kind of lulls you to sleep,” he explained. “We’re a high-paced offense and when we get going high paced, we’re in a pretty fast pace. We just have to get going; you have to put your foot on the gas to get going.
“Seems like when we get hot, we’re hot, and when we’re not, we’re not. We got hot. Kody ran good routes and Josh made good passes,” Wood continued. “We just can’t wait so long to turn it on.”
With the win, Elkin snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 4-3 on the season and 1-2 in Mountain Valley Conference play. Meanwhile, East Wilkes fell to 0-7 and 0-3 with the tough loss.
The Elks hit the road after a two-game home-stand Friday when they travel to West Wilkes, while the Cards host one of three unbeaten conference teams in Ashe County (4-3, 3-0)
“We’re going to go to practice and try and get better,” Wood said. “After these last two weeks, we talked about all kinds of things — we even talked about changing our offense. But we made a decision that we’re going to do this and stick with it. We’re just going to practice the things we work on and try and get better.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.