ELKIN - Missed opportunities.
For the second week in a row, missed opportunities doomed the Buckin’ Elks in a tight Mountain Valley Conference contest.
A week after letting a 14-point lead slip away against rival Starmount, Elkin saw North Wilkes battle back in the second half and spoil Homecoming Night festivities at Grissom Stadium.
The Elks dominated possession early in the game, but failed to make the most out of those scoring chances in North territory. The Vikings hung around before scoring the final 16 points to secure the 36-20 victory on the road.
“They played a good game and did a lot of good things. They executed offensively and defensively a lot better than we did in the second half — that’s the bottom line,” head coach Scott Wood said.
“We just didn’t execute.”
The Buckin’ Elks stormed out of the game as Jamiles Hayes took the reverse hand-off on the opening kick to the 46-yard line.
Josh Strickland then hit Tyrek Hayes on back-to-back third-down plays, moving the ball deep into Viking territory. Jamiles Hayes capped the drive with a 21-yard touchdown scamper after reversing fields to give Elkin a quick 6-0 advantage over the conference front-runners.
On their first defensive series of the night, the Elks came up big, as Tyrek Hayes forced a turnover on downs near midfield with a fourth-down stop on a screen pass in the flats.
For the rest of the half, Elkin drove into plus-territory on four of their next five possessions, but failed to put any points on the board.
Meanwhile, the Vikings showed signs of life to pull ahead. Josh Bare stepped in front of a receiver and picked off Josh Strickland, returning the ball 50 yards for the go-ahead score early in the second quarter. North tacked on another score on a five-yard touchdown run by Nathaniel Hunt to push the lead out to 14-6.
But looking to cut in the lead before the half, Strickland drove the Elks down the field, finding Kody King on a fade route in the corner of the endzone with 6.3 seconds left. Jamiles Hayes added the two-point conversion as Elkin drew even at the break, 14-14.
The Elks opened the second half much like they did to start the game as Zane Millsaps blocked a punt on North’s first possession, recovering the ball at the 2.
Three plays later, Strickland lowered his head and plowed in for the go-ahead touchdown, putting Elkin up 20-14.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bare darted 92 yards through the Elk return team for the score to catapult the Vikings ahead, 21-20 — a lead they would not relinquish.
From there, an injury ultimately derailed Elkin offensively. Playing on defense, Strickland injured his pinky on his throwing hand, keeping him from lining up under center for the rest of the night.
Filing in for Strickland as the back-up quarterback, King was unable to lead the comeback as the Vikings picked off the junior twice.
“Kody has taken several snaps in practice and did a good job,” Wood said. “But you really go down two men in that situation because you lose your go-to guy and the guy getting it to him, so that hurt us. It changes the complexion of what we do.”
The Vikings took advantage, tacking on two more scores down the stretch to preserve the hard-fought 36-20 victory.
“Missed opportunities,” Wood explained. “Whether it be holding or a bad snap, we needed [to score on those drives] in the first half. The kids came back right before the half in our two-minute offense. We got it in, went for two and tied it up — I was proud of them for that.”
Elkin dropped to 3-3 on the season with the loss, falling to 0-2 in the Mountain Valley Conference, while North Wilkes improves to 5-1 and 2-0 on the year.
The Elks will look to bounce back after back-to-back losses when win-less East Wilkes comes to town Friday in the Battle of the County line.
“We’re going to go get better,” Wood added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.