RONDA — After a rain out on Friday night, East Wilkes and Elkin moved their game to Monday night where they saw clear skies and chilly temperatures. The cross county match-up between these two football teams usually brings out the best from both sides. In a rivalry that dates back to 1975, the Buckin’ Elks have won 11 out of the last 13 games. Last season the Cardinals won 55-0, and on Monday night East Wilkes added another win to its column as it dominated the Elks, 56-7.
“We played good tonight and I thought we executed well,” said East Wilkes head coach J.K. Adkins. “We kept a level head coming into the game, and it was more of a business-like attitude where we wanted to take care of business and I felt like we did that.”
The Cardinals deferred to the Elks to kickoff the first quarter. Elkin ran six plays, and came away with one first down courtesy of Tanner Sturdivant. Quarterback Beau Burgess struggled to handle the snap on the next play which resulted in a fumble and a loss of yards to bring up second-and-15. On the next play, Burgess tried to find Hayden Brooks but came up short for an incomplete pass. The Elks were forced to punt, and the Cardinals took over at the 5-yard line.
It didn’t take long for Bryce Vestal to find his man on the first drive for the Cardinals, as he handed the ball off to Devin Couch who ran the ball for 11 yards for the first down. Couch came up with another first down on second-and-eight, as he ran the ball for 16 yards. The next three plays saw the Elkin defense come up with two stops, then a flag was thrown on the Cardinals for illegal motion. On fourth-and-six, Adkins and his coaching staff made the decision to go for the first down. The Elkin defense tried to come up with a huge stop, but Vestal saw the pass option and found Couch for a first down.
On the next drive, Elkin managed to find four stops before the Cardinals came up on fourth down again. On fourth-and-five, the Cardinals went for it and Jared Wood found the first down to put East Wilkes in the red zone. On second-and-six, Vestal handed the ball off to Damien Reid, who found a hole in the Elkin defense due to a huge block by Joah Logan and Couch. Reid ran the ball in for an 18-yard touchdown to give East Wilkes a 7-0 lead with 2:05 left in the first quarter. The first drive lasted over seven minutes for the Cardinals, and they ran 14 plays before the touchdown.
For Elkin’s next drive, it took over on the 20-yard line after the kickoff by the Cardinals. On the first play of the drive, the snap sailed over Burgess’ head and East Wilkes recovered on the five-yard line. It took one play for the Cardinals to score their second touchdown of the night as Vestal found Couch for a five-yard run touchdown. The Cardinals lined up for the two-point conversion and Jayveon Ross found the end zone to give East Wilkes a 16-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
On East Wilkes’ first drive of the second quarter, it earned another touchdown on a drive that lasted over seven minutes, and the Cards covered over 73 yards with 13 plays. The touchdown belonged to Reid, as he ran the ball for a two-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, and the Cardinals had a 22-0 lead.
As time was winding down in the first half, East Wilkes’ defense came up with a huge stop to force a punt from the Elks. With less than a minute remaining, the Cardinals carried the ball down the field. With 23.9 seconds left, the Cardinals were on third-and-goal from the 10-yard line. Vestal rolled to the near side of the field, then turned and threw the ball to the right side to find Jared Wood and another touchdown. Vestal’s offensive moves drew the defense away from Wood, while the efficient play calling from the East Wilkes coaches earned another touchdown for the Cardinals. The drive lasted just under two minutes, and they covered over 76 yards. At the half, the Cardinals had a dominating 29-0 lead over Elkin.
“We’ve got to do a better job blocking on the offensive side and we’ve got to do a better job coming off of the blocks on the defensive side,” said Elkin head coach Scott Wood. “I didn’t see a lot of improvement tonight, but I know that we can do better.”
The start of the second half saw East Wilkes earn another touchdown in less than three minutes. With five plays ran, the Cardinals covered 80 yards before Austin Jolly picked up his first touchdown on his first carry of the night. The Cardinals went for a two-point conversion, but the Elkin defense came up big for the stop. East Wilkes had a 35-0 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
During the first quarter, the Elks had only had a hand-full of first downs. On their first drive in the second half, they changed their plays and earned a touchdown courtesy of Jaylen Mayes. The Elks’ drive lasted just over three minutes, where they ran nine plays for 65 yards. The touchdown cut the Cardinals lead, 35-7, but the Elks didn’t have long to celebrate their touchdown as East Wilkes answered back on their next drive.
The Cardinals had slowly made their way down the field thanks to a runs by Jolly, Reid and Ross. On fourth-and-five, Vestal came up with another huge play as he threw the ball to Logan who was double covered by the Elks. Logan came up with the catch to give the Cardinals first-and-goal from the 9-yard line. The Cardinals lined up on the offensive side, and Vestal handed the ball off the Andrew Elmore, who earned his first touchdown of the night and gave the Cardinals a 42-7 lead.
Just as it looked like the Elks were going to score another touchdown on their next drive, Burgess fumbled the ball on the nine-yard line and Ross recovered the ball for East Wilkes. On the first play of the drive, Couch ran the ball for 42 yards before Alex Duncan made the stop for Elkin. With 8:30 left in the game, Vestal found a hole in the Elkin defense and ran the ball for a 25-yard touchdown to give East Wilkes a 49-7 lead.
While the game looked to be over for Elkin, East Wilkes scored another touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Elmore found the end zone to score the final touchdown of the night and give the Cardinals a 56-7 win over Elkin.
Both teams have a quick turnaround time as they both play on Friday night. The Cards take on Ashe County (1-2), and the Elks take on West Wilkes (2-1).
“It’s a quick turn around for us this week, it’s hard to do a lot with (the team) on Tuesday after a Monday night game,” said Wood. “Tomorrow will probably be some film and mental work. It’s going to be a quick turnaround before we get to West Wilkes.”
East Wilkes keeps its undefeated conference alive as it moves to 3-0 in the MVAC, while Elkin drops to 0-3.
“Our opponent has the same turnaround time, so there’s no advantage or disadvantage for either team,” said Adkins. “We just have to take care of our guys tomorrow. We already have our game plan set for Ashe, we took care of that this weekend.”
Kristian Russell can be reached on Twitter @YadkinElkSports.