West finishes runner-up
WINSTON-SALEM – Nobody gets to the state championship game by accident.
Elkin High School showed exactly why they have been able to reach the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state football finals three times in the past four years as they took control of a close game in the second half here Saturday at Groves Stadiumto claim their third state title.
The Bucking Elks took a 21-12 halftime lead and broke it open in the second half, knocking off Northampton County High School – West 42-12.
The Hurricanes, who put up a fight, grabbed an early lead, but couldn’t make it stand up as the Bucking Elks used their experience in a championship game and a stifling defense to get the win.
On the opening drive, West coach Diego Hasty came out in a spread set and the Hurricanes drove down the field for the first score.
After Mack Parker returned the opening kickoff 26 yards, quarterback Randy Turner started the drive with a 10-yard pickup on first down that moved the ball to Elkin territory.
Titus Lee, the game’s leading rusher with 127 yards on 29 carries, moved the ball three yards before a pass interference call on the Bucking Elks gave West a first down on the 34-yardline.
Lee carried for two yards one play before catching a Turner pass and scampering 14 yards for a first down at the 18.
Facing third-and-11 from the 19, Turner connected with Aljerald Butcher for a 17-yard pickup to the two. Devin Williams carried it in on the next play to give West a 6-0 lead with 9:11 to go in the first quarter.
Elkin was forced to punt after picking up a pair of first downs and the kick by Matthew Wurdema was downed at the four-yardline.
West picked up nine yards, but was forced to punt, leaving the Bucking Elks with a short field as they took possession on the Hurricane 37-yardline.
It took just four plays before Elkin found paydirt, though it was in an unconventional manner.
Donnie Belle broke free from the 18-yardline and scampered to the seven where he fumbled and Cole Faulkner jumped on the loose pigskin in the endzone to record the score. Wells Stewart added the kick to make it 7-6.
Following the score, the Hurricanes answered with a 11-play, 80-yard drive that took nearly four minutes off the clock.
Lee carried the ball four times, collecting 10 yards to move the ball up to the 34-yardline.
From there Turner picked up 10 yards followed by Lee carrying the ball for two, eight, six and 15 yards respectively to get the ball to the 25-yardline.
Parker scampered the remaining 25 yards to paydirt on the next play. The conversion failed, leaving West ahead 12-7.
The next play was the play of the game as Elkin roared back when Levi Carter returned the kickoff 91 yards for a score. The Stewart PAT made it 14-12, but the momentum shifted dramatically in favor of the Bucking Elks.
West fumbled on their next possession and Drew Welborn recovered at the Hurricane 29-yardline.
On the next play, Kendron Bullock went the entire distance to paydirt which, coupled with the Stewart extra point, gave Elkin a 21-12 lead.
West fumbled again on the next drive, but the defense stiffened, thanks in part to a key pass defended by Tyshaun Barnes, and forced a field goal attempt which was missed.
The Hurricanes drove to the Elkin 26-yardline on the ensuing drive, but were stopped on fourth-and-16.
On the first possession of the second half, the Bucking Elks sealed the win.
Carter returned the kickoff 20 yards to the Elkin 35-yardline. From there, it took just four plays to reach paydirt.
Quarterback Tyler Transou, the game’s Most Valuable Player, went 44 yards on the second play from scrimmage to get the ball to the Elkin 18-yardline.
Two plays later Dustin Miles scampered 15 yards to paydirt at 10:10 of the third quarter. Stewart added the PAT and Elkin had claimed a 28-12 lead.
West was forced to punt after a single first down and Elkin added to their lead when Transou capped a eight-play, 40-yard drive with an eight-yard run. Stewart’s PAT give the Bucking Elks a 35-12 lead with 5:24 to play in the third quarter.
An exchange of turnovers and punts ensued until Elkin scored with 6:24 to play in the contest on a Bullock three-yard plunge.
Statistically, the Hurricanes were almost even with Elkin. West had 19 first downs, compared to 16 for Elkin and picked up 227 rushing yards compared to 267 for the Bucking Elks.
Elkin led total offense 334 to 283, but West dominated time of possession, keeping the ball 28:53 of the contest.
The telling sign was turnovers where West had five fumbles and lost four while Elkin had three and lost only one. Neither team threw an interception.
Lee was named West’s Outstanding Offensive Player while linebacker Rashaun Roberts was the team’s Outstanding Defensive Player after recording 12 tackles. Miles won the offensive award for Elkin while Coad Westra, who had a game-high 14 tackles including 10 solos, won the defensive award.
Northampton-West finished the season 14-2, an all-time mark for victories at the school.
(Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Sports Writer Patrick Campbell contributed to this story.)