9/27/2018 3:36:00 PM CL's bid for upset comes up short against Elk River
Elk River, ranked second in Class 5AA, scored the go-ahead touchdown with 36 seconds remaining to beat the upset-minded Wildcat football team 28-21 last Friday, September 21 at Elk River High School. The Wildcats led 21-20 when the Elks got the ball at their own 35 with four minutes left in the game. The Elks went on a 13-play drive that included two conversions on fourth and one. On first and ten from the Wildcat 13 with 43 seconds left in the game, Elk River’s Kevin Egbujor took a handoff, ran through a hole on the left side of the line and dove through Wildcat tacklers into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Elks up 26-21. Egbujor also ran for the two-point conversion to put the Elks up by seven.
The Wildcats started at their own 37 after the ensuing kickoff. Six plays later, they faced fourth and three at the Elk River 47 with three seconds left in the game. Quarterback David Kimlinger dropped back, scrambled to the right and threw a ball toward the front right corner of the end zone. An Elk River defender knocked the ball away at the goal line and the game was over.
Just like the previous week against Andover, the opponent scored early and looked like they might make it a blowout. But also, just like the previous week, the Wildcats began to move the ball, the defense came up with some big stops and the Wildcats put themselves into position to score an upset.
After the game’s opening kickoff, the Elks pounded the ball down the field right at the heart of the Wildcat defense. On fourth and three from the Wildcat 35, Egbujor took a handoff right, went around the corner and outraced the Wildcat defense to the end zone for a touchdown. The Wildcats stuffed Adam Nelson on the two-point conversion attempt and the Elks led 6-0. The Wildcats quickly moved the ball on the ensuing possession, with Rosario and Tim Gregory doing most of the work. A nine-yard pass to Nick Stone gave the Wildcats third and one at the Elk 26. The Wildcats tried to go up the middle twice to get the first down. After a measurement, the fourth down try ended up just one inch short and the Elks took over.
The Wildcats nearly forced a three and out. On fourth and one from their own 35, the Elks lined up to go for it. A hard count induced a Wildcat lineman to jump offsides, giving the Elks a fresh set of downs. Five plays later, Carter Otto plowed into the end zone from the one-yard line. The Elks again failed to convert the two-point attempt and led 12-0 with 2:07 left in the first quarter. The defenses took over for the rest of the half, with each team forcing the other into punts after two short drives each. The Wildcats recovered a fumble at the Elk River four-yard line as time ran out at the end of the half.
The Wildcats started at their own 38-yard line after the opening kickoff for the second half. On third and 10 Kimlinger kept the ball, ran left, cut upfield and outran the Elk defense 62 yards for a touchdown. After Reece Lawlor kicked the extra point, the Wildcats trailed 12-7 less than two minutes into the third quarter. After forcing the Elks to punt for the third drive in a row, the Wildcats took over on their own 29-yard line.
On first down, on a read option, Kimlinger faked a handoff, spun and headed up the middle. A couple of fakes got him into the open and he took off, heading downfield toward the right sideline. An Elk River defender caught up with Kimlinger and tackled him by the face mask at the 12. Kimlinger was okay and the personal foul penalty gave the Wildcats a first down at the six. On the next play, Gregory took a handoff to the right and waltzed through a huge hole into the end zone for a touchdown. After the extra point, the Wildcats led 14-12 with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
Elk River had a nice return on the ensuing kickoff, but a holding penalty pushed them back to their own eight-yard line.
On third and seven from the 11-yard line, Elk quarterback Tyler Leshovsky completed the only pass the Elks threw in the entire game, to Egbujor, for 12 yards and a first down. The Elks continued the drive. After running 15 plays and eating up seven minutes of clock, fullback Otto plowed up the middle for three yards and a touchdown. Otto also ran up the middle for the two-point conversion and the Elks led 20-14 with exactly eleven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
It didn’t take the Wildcats long to respond. They returned the kickoff to their own 33. On first down, Rosario took the handoff and broke through the line. He was off to the races and really showed his speed. By the time he hit the end zone for the game-tying touchdown, his closet pursuer was ten yards behind. Lawlor nailed the extra point and the Wildcats led 21-20, just 19 seconds after Elk River took the lead.
The Elks picked up a couple of first downs on the ensuing drive. But on fourth and four from the Wildcat 48, the Elks fumbled and the Wildcats recovered with 7:10 left in the game. But after three short rushes, a penalty on the Elks and two penalties on the Wildcats, the Wildcats were forced to punt on fourth and 14 from their own 43. Elk River took over and embarked on the game winning drive.
The Elks gained nearly 400 yards on the ground. The bulk of it cam from Adam Nelson, who had 29 carries for 183 yards, and Egbujor, who carried the ball 15 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns. For the Wildcats, Kimlinger had seven carries for 133 yards and Rosario carried the ball ten times for 92 yards. Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss said “While we were disappointed in the outcome, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We went in, executed our game plan, played hard for 48 minutes and had a chance at the end. We were pleased with the process. It’s something we can build on as we continue to get better. Last year, we had a steep learning curve, playing up against a tougher schedule for the first time. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but our players have stepped up and proved that they can play with the best. Going forward, that’s a good thing.”
After falling behind early, the Wildcat defense settled in and played well. Weiss said “Sometimes, especially with a unique offense, it takes a while to get a feel for what they’re doing.
After their first two scores, we made a couple of slight adjustments on defense. Owen Dresel took the lead and played pretty well. Will TInjum had a pretty big game and shut a couple of their key plays down. The whole defense stuck with the plan we had worked on all week.
There was no surprise what Elk River was going to do. The questions are, one, can you physically play with them and, two, can you play disciplined football? It’s a credit to our guys that they prepared physically in the offseason and they played disciplined, assignment football. They came ready to play.”
Offensively, the Wildcat ran just 33 plays, while the Elks ran 70 plays. “Long plays by David and Manny turned the game back in our favor,” said Weiss. “When presented with a very good defense like Elk River’s, it’s tough to move the ball. We were able to take advantage of some opportunities and make some big plays. Manny really turned on the burners on his run. He worked very hard in the offseason. We don’t necessarily always think of him as speedy guy, but he certainly showed some speed on that play.”
Football Notes The Wildcats (2-2) will head to Rogers tomorrow night to take on the Rogers Royals (0-4) at 7 p.m. The Royals were 6-2 last season. Weiss said “Rogers one of better teams in our district. They are struggling record-wise, but they might be the best 0-4 team in the state. They have played some tough teams and just haven’t been able to break out. Historically, they have been able to move the ball and I expect that to be the case again this year. Offensively, we need to find opportunities to move the ball on them. They are a very good football team that we can’t afford to take lightly because of their record.”