ELKHART – A series of mishaps and lapses marred what was otherwise a solid performance by an improving Elkhart Elks (4-2, 1-1). Their 48-22 loss to the Franklin Lions (5-1, 2-0) Friday night could have went the other way, without some glaring mistakes and missed opportunities.
“If you take away three minutes before halftime, this game goes different,” head coach Jason Fiacco said. “We did a lot of good things tonight. We just had too many lapses in what we were doing.”
Errors inside the 20-yard line spoiled Elkhart quarterback Cade Starr's night. Three red-zone interceptions resulted in 14 points for the Lions.
Arguably the most lethal pick came on Elkhart's final possession of the half. With three minutes remaining, the Elks were staring at a 21-7 deficit. A 13-yard run from John Ashford got the offense rolling early in the drive.
A couple plays later, Starr found a crease in the defense for a 10-yard run before finding big target Ky Thomas on a 14-yard pass.
The drive went south from there. A run for no gain and a few incompletions had the Elks facing a fourth-down near the goal-line. Starr attempted a pass to the right side of the end-zone. But the pass was jumped and intercepted, then returned 75 yards to the Elks' 25-yard line.
Making matters worse for the Elks, on the final play of the half Franklin capitalized on a 25-yard post route for a touchdown.
Down 27-7, Elkhart opened the third quarter with first possession. The Elks marched down the field again, capping the drive with a 32-yard touchdown run from Starr.
“We're a much-improved team from last year,” Fiacco said. “Last year we struggled to stop them much at all. Tonight was a different story. A different feel. We're a good ball club.”
Momentum started to turn the Elks' way, as they recovered the ensuing kickoff – setting them up past midfield. The offense had a chance to cut the Lions lead to a single possession. The Elks continued to fire down the field, until they faced yet another fourth-down inside the red zone.
Starr bootlegged to the right and attempted to thread a needle to Thomas in the corner of the end-zone. The pass was tipped and intercepted, triggering a return to inside Elkhart territory.
“This is going to be something we can show him, and he can improve on,” Fiacco said. “This is going to be valuable film for him to see what he did wrong. It was open. He just waited a little too long. He's not going to continue to make those mistakes.”
Franklin again capitalized on an Elks' error. A hard play-action caught the secondary peeking into the backfield and set up an 18-yard passing touchdown.
The Elks' next possession stalled as they turned the ball over on downs. Franklin fired off another touchdown to extend their lead to 41-14. The Elks responded with a 47-yard touchdown run from RJ Moore at the top of the fourth quarter.
The Lions shot right back on the first play of their next possession with a 51-yard run to the house, and the Elks could not reclaim the momentum.