GRAPELAND – In a tale of two rivals, the Grapeland Sandies walked off their home field with a 40-29 win over the Elkhart Elks Friday night.
An hour weather delay at the end of the first quarter didn't appear to have much impact on the two opposing sides during this non-district battle.
Elkhart's Joshua Davis got things rolling midway through the first quarter on a 14-yard touchdown run off the right side of the offensive line. The first score of the game was set up by Messiah Birdow's 50-yard run a few plays before on an end-around sweep.
Known for their big-play offense, Grapeland took a more methodical approach to answer the Elk's touchdown. Momentum nearly shifted in complete favor of Elkhart on Grapeland's sixth play of the drive when a fumble behind the line of scrimmage was overturned to an incompletion.
Elkhart had another chance to get off the field on a fourth-and-one. Elkhart was called for offsides before the snap and then committed a pass interference down by the one-yard line. Grapeland wasted little time taking advantage of the new set of downs when quarterback BJ Lamb found Keizion Ashford on a bubble screen for their first score.
The two-point try was no good, which became a constant theme of the night for Grapeland.
Soon after the Grapeland score, the game was issued a weather delay due to lightning. A little over an hour and a half later the teams returned to the field with a 1:53 left in the opening quarter.
Elkhart immediately was forced into a three-and-out, which Grapeland responded with a seven-play, 59-yard touchdown drive that bled into the second quarter.
The drive was highlighted by a 32-yard scramble from Lamb – who also punched it in from one-yard out two plays later.
Down 14-7, the Elks knew they needed to put together a drive. They nearly surrendered that idea when quarterback Cale Starr fumbled on the fourth play of the drive
The ball was recovered by Elkhart as they stacked together with a 12-play, 63-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes of game time. The drive was capped off by a spectacular seven-yard run from Starr.
Grapeland had 2:40 left until half to regain the lead. Keizion Ashford got the drive going with a 23-yard catch down the left sideline. His playmaking ability resurfaced a few plays later on a bubble screen he took down to Elkhart's 14-yard line.
Since he got them down there Ashford had to be the one to get them home with a one-yard touchdown run up the middle. The two-point try was unsuccessful as the Sandies carried a 20-14 lead into halftime.
Elkhart began the second half with the ball and put on display a bit of their aerial attack. Starr connected with Birdow on the second play of their drive for a 48-yard touchdown pass.
After taking a 21-20 lead, Birdow kept the momentum in the Elks favor – picking off Lamb on Grapeland's opening second-half possession.
Elkhart was unable to build on that as they had to put four plays later.
Consistent with the Sandies' prior drive, Ashford continues to be the key asset for their offense. 11 plays into their drive, he found his way into the endzone for his third score of the night off a 12-yard touchdown run.
Running back Lekerina Smith runs of five and eight the plays before setting up the score.
The Elks failed to respond with their final drive before the fourth quarter. Up five, with 11:53 left in the game, the pedal stayed floored to the ground for Grapeland.
Lamb hooked up with Riley Murchison on a 26-yard touchdown pass to extend their lead to 32-21 with 10:51 left in the game.
Fourth-quarter pressure didn't seem too great for Elkhart's sophomore quarterback Starr. He opened the gates with a 46-yard run down to Grapeland's nine-yard line that would end in a one-yard sneak from him.
Elkhart attempted an onside kick with 6:44 left in the game down 32-29. It nearly worked but Grapeland was able to sneak back on the ball at the last second.
They melted over five minutes off the clock before Cadarian Wiley capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
Elkhart had forced the Sandies into a third and distance before Ashford made a leaping play over two Elk defenders to keep their drive alive.
Grapeland's two-point try was good as they placed a capper on the game.
Grapeland (2-0) travels to Cayuga (1-1) next week, while Elkhart (0-2) hosts San Augustine.