Football practice had just finished up at Elkin on Thursday afternoon, but coach Richard Grissom wasn’t going anywhere.
He stayed behind on the Buckin’ Elks soggy field to log some extra time with his kickers Tanner Hardy and Ethan Creed. For about 20 minutes, the group, which also included holder Grayson Kimery and a few others, worked on extra points and field goals from various distances.
“I’ve preached to them all the time that they’ve got three phases — the kicking game, offense and defense,” Grissom said. “Most of the time you win if you win at least two of the three.”
Elkin has been playing pretty well in all three phases lately, reeling off six victories in a row and outscoring foes 274-44 during that stretch, with two shutouts.
Week two of the state playoffs should provide the Buckin’ Elks with a much stiffer test than last week. While last week’s foe, Union Academy, boasted only two wins in its entire football history, this week’s opponent, North Duplin (5-7), has been a regular in the latter rounds of the 1A playoffs.
Elkin beat North Duplin for the 1A West championship in 2006. The next year, North Duplin beat East Wilkes on its way to the West title and an appearance in the 1A state title game.
The Buckin’ Elks (10-2) will be favored tonight against the 11th seeded Rebels (5-7), but Grissom knows that some slip-ups in any of the three phases can be costly enough to send his second-seeded team home early.
“They do some things that could cause us some problems, especially on defense,” Grissom said. “They’ve got two really good running backs. They’ve got some good wide receivers and good skill people. They’ve got a pretty aggressive football team. We’ll have to play well to come out on top.”
North Duplin beat Cherokee 14-7 last Friday night to advance. A 34-yard Devin Oliver touchdown run early in the fourth quarter proved the difference.
Oliver recorded an 80-yard TD run and an 83-yard kickoff return for a score the week before in a 42-14 win over Spring Creek. In that contest, quarterback Alan Schilling scored three touchdowns.
An X-factor tonight could be field conditions. Elkin’s turf traditionally doesn’t drain all that well and it got socked by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida last week. Another round of heavy rains hit the area Tuesday and into Wednesday, leaving things pretty drenched at Grissom Stadium even late into the day Thursday.
Grissom shook it off.
“That doesn’t bother us,” Grissom said. “We’ve got to play. Whatever Mother Nature says, we’ve got to do. I’m used to it. The players are used to it. They don’t mind.”
If the game does come down to kicks tonight, the Elks have an extra weapon in Hardy, who joined the team after soccer season wrapped up. Hardy hit three extra points last week in his first game with the team.
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There were many who expected East Surry to be the team traveling to third-seeded Hendersonville (10-2) tonight in the 1AA bracket. But East Wilkes (7-5) stunned the Cardinals from Pilot Mountain with a last-minute touchdown drive for a 22-19 triumph. Quarterback Micah Bryan hit Aaron Bauguess for the go-ahead score with nine seconds left.
That victory has East Wilkes players and coaches believing that anything is possible from here on out. Why not?
The Cards from Ronda put on a similar display in the 2007 playoffs, winning at Hayesville with a last second field goal in the first round, then dispatching of North Stokes on the road before a narrow loss at North Duplin.
Hendersonville could be among the quickest foes East Wilkes has seen this season. The Bearcats run a triple option offense — the Hendersonville newspaper refers to it as a spread wishbone — and get a lot of people involved.
In Friday’s 47-23 playoff win over Mitchell, Hendersonville had three 100-yard rushers. Desmond Whiteside’s 108 yards last week put him over 1,000 for the season. Quarterback Ben Walgenbach passed for 166 yards last week to go with his 108 rushing yards.
“Their offense is a lot like Surry Central’s,” East Wilkes assistant Jeremy Helton said earlier this week, referencing the Eagles “ham-bone” attack that features lots of misdirection.
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The big question surrounding Starmount going into tonight’s 2A playoff game against Lexington (6-6) is whether last week’s narrow win over Surry Central was just “one of those nights” or a more troubling sign.
The Rams also struggled to put Alleghany away on Oct. 30, beating the Trojans 16-14 in Sparta.
The common denominators in both contests were wet field conditions and frequent penalty flags. Starmount’s field wasn’t swamped last week like Elkin’s but it wasn’t devoid of soft spots either. There were times when the Rams seemed to have trouble getting firm footing and making that explosive step.
Nonetheless, Starmount has been finding ways to win, whether pretty or ugly. Last week’s 20-17 triumph marked the 10th victory in a row for Scott Johnson’s unit.
Lexington’s season has been full of peaks and valleys. The Yellow Jackets do seem to be at a peak now though. After a 10-point loss to Thomasville on Nov. 6, the Jackets seemed to experience a rebirth of sorts last Friday in a 40-22 win over Trinity.
Marquez Grayson, a freshman, returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, and suddenly Lexington had new-found confidence. New quarterback Codie Boger scored three short-yardage touchdowns in the win.
Starmount and Lexington have never played in football. Tonight’s winner will face either Polk County or Thomasville in round three next week.
The Rams are 0-2 against Thomasville in the playoffs. Lexington plays in the Bulldogs’ conference.
Upward hoops sign-ups in Elkin
Registration for Upward Basketball and Cheerleading in Elkin will continue until Nov. 22.
The program is for boys and girls in grades 1-6. The cost is $65 for basketball players and $70 for cheerleaders.
All games and practices will be held at Elkin Valley Baptist Church. Practices start Saturday, Jan. 2. The first game is Saturday, Jan. 9. The end of season awards celebration is Monday, March 8.
Basketball players and cheerleaders must attend one evaluation session. Those will be held at Elkin Valley Baptist Church on Tuesday, Nov. 17 from 6-8 p.m. and on Saturday, Nov. 21 from 9 a.m. until noon. For more information, contact Elkin Valley Baptist Church at 835-3808.