Elkton defense stalls Yoncalla offense

Six-man football is notorious for high-scoring games, though the first half of the Elkton and Yoncalla game last Friday was a defensive battle as the Yoncalla Eagles took a 2-0 lead into halftime.

Elkton, however, came to life in the second half as they scored 21 unanswered to earn the victory. 

Yoncalla and Elkton both came into Friday with the same 1-2 record, but for Yoncalla, this was only their second game action.

“It was really important to have a good game and then play well. And luckily, we did on one side of the ball,” said Elkton Coach Jeremy Lockhart. “Defensively we were ferocious. Just flying off the ball. But offensively, it seemed like we were a little lackadaisical.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Elkton found themselves deep in their own territory early in the second quarter. Elkton was not able to move the ball and were forced to punt near their own endzone on the fourth down.

The snap then went over the punter’s head and out of bounds, making it a safety for Yoncalla, who got on the scoreboard first with two points.

Neither Yoncalla nor Elkton were able to move the ball on offense much during the rest of the first half due to tough defense on both sides.

To start the third quarter, Yoncalla got the ball on their own 48-yard line and quarterback Gabe Martinez found his receiver, Noah Leary, for a big gain which set up a first and goal for the Eagles. 

Elkton was called for an offside penalty, moving the ball to the Elks four-yard line, but after the ball was snapped over Martinez’s head, Yoncalla was faced with fourth and goal on the Elks 30.

Martinez’s pass on fourth down was incomplete and a turnover on downs gave Elkton the ball back. Similar to the first half, Elktons offense wasn’t able to do much and they quickly found themselves in a punting situation on fourth down as the third quarter was coming to a close.

The Elks worked some trickery and successfully pulled off a fake punt that resulted in the first touchdown of the game. Anthony Alimenti connected with teammate Christian Halsted for the 60-yard scoring play, making the lead 7-2 Elks. 

Elkton was able to score again with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, growing their lead to 14-2 on a fourth and four. Nathan Rausch broke away from Eagle defenders on a 33-yard scamper for the score.

Yoncalla’s trouble on offense continued as Martinez’s pass bounced off his own receiver into the hands of Elkton defender Halsted, who returned the interception 65 yards for another Elks score. This pushed the lead to 21-2.

Yoncalla then tried to rally for a score as Martinez connected with receiver Ashton Hardy for 30 yards, setting up a first and goal at the Elkton eight-yard line with 2:46 left in the game. The Eagles weren’t able to convert anything after three incomplete passes forced a turnover on downs, however, giving the ball back to Elkton.

The Elks were able to take most of the time off the clock with a couple of running plays before turning the ball back over to Yoncalla to end the game. 

Elkton’s Rausch led the way on the ground as he had 12 carries for 93 yards and a score. Halsted had three receptions for 90 yards with a score and also contributed the 65-yard pick-six to push the game out of reach.

Elkton and Yoncalla will be back in action next week as the Elks host North Lake Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. Yoncalla will travel to North Douglas and play them Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.

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