ELKHART -- There was a lot riding on the Elks’ home game Friday. They needed a win over Coldspring-Oakhurst to clinch a playoff spot, not mention getting revenge for COHS’ denying them that privilege last year. The weight of the game was palatable ... and Coach Jason Fiacco’s Elks came to the contest hungry. But they would have to do it without starting quarterback Cade Starr, sidelined with concussion protocol after an injury in the Crockett game last week. Stepping up to fill his shoes were junior RJ Moore and freshman Cale Starr – Cade’s brother.
The game was a thriller and young Starr marshalled the Elks in a fourth-quarter rally. He connected with sophomore Messiah Birdow on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds left in the game to pull within one – 26-25. A two-point conversion failed. Then an on-side kick was recovered by Elkhart’s Holden Bush to give the Elks another shot. Starr connected with Richard Carrillo for first down with 30 seconds left. The game came down to a final shot at the end zone with a single second on the clock. Trojan defenders were able to deny Birdow the reception and hang on for the win.
Elkhart started strong with Moore and junior Camden Sellers rushing for an early first down, but Moore was stripped of the ball, and the Trojans quickly scored on a 29-yard reverse by Greg Terry.
Elkhart’s defense came up with a big defense stand, anchored by Ky Thomas. Then the Elks drove down the field with Moore the workhorse on the ground. They got on the board with a 6-yard carry by Sellers late in the first quarter. Starr added the PAT kick to knot the score at 7-all.
A short kick appeared to be controlled by EHS, but the call was overturned and COHS capitalized on good field position, scoring quickly on a 12- run.
Elkhart turned the ball over with a fumble and the Trojans went to the air and scored to go up 20-7.
Elkhart came back with a big pass from Starr to Ky Thomas on 4th-and-13. Thomas dragged defenders to the 4-yard-line and Moore dived in from the 2 for the Elks’ second touchdown. The kick was blocked.
COHS was threatening again as the first half ended, but a touchdown-saving open-field tackle by Conner Walker stopped that score and the teams went to the locker room with COHS up 20-13.
The Trojans scored again late in the third, before Starr and the Elks made their big push in the final quarter. The fairy-tale ending just wasn't to be.
Head Coach Jason Fiacco extolled his team’s effort. “They didn’t quit. That’s a great big thing. People talk about kids not being tough in this day and age. When kids get an opportunity to quit, most of the times they’ll take it – that’s a lack of maturity, a lack of toughness. We had a lot of opportunities to quit, to stop believing, stop working, but the kids didn’t take it. These kids worked to the very, very, very end -- they worked and did what they’re supposed to do. Considering that we lost, I couldn’t be more proud of them. We want tough guys. We want guys to battle, and that’s exactly what they did.” He proudly pointed out that five freshman started in this game: Cale Starr, Tyler Stafford, Chase Frazier, Landon Thomas and Avery Starr.
With this heartbreaker, the Elks finish their 3A-Division 1-District 11 competition with a 2-4 record, and wrap up their regular season breaking even at 5-5. While Elkhart has a bye next week, their playoffs hopes are still alive and will be determined next Friday when Westwood and Coldsprings-Oakhurst battle at COHS. If Westwood wins, there will be a three-way tie for the final playoff spot, with each team having two district wins. Stay tuned, folks…