Story and photos by Scott Serio
For Elkton, Friday night’s matchup was everything finally coming together in a season where the Golden Elks have had troubles. For Perryville, the 47-6 pummeling highlighted all the areas where the Panthers need work and must quickly if they hope to make the playoffs.
“I think we played a complete football game besides the personal (fouls), it is just chippy and they are teenage boys and they are going to react. If you can take that out of them, you are a miracle worker. They have been playing against each other since junior league, they’re going to trash talk,” said Elkton Head Coach Matt Feeney after the sometimes heated battle that featured close to two dozen personal fouls and an ejection for Perryville. “The scoreboard reflects that we took care of business in the other aspects of the game. That’s the beauty of a quality football team. If one guy isn’t getting it done someone else steps up and gets it done. Complete effort.”
The Golden Elks were hitting on all cylinders. Raiquon Estep had 120 rushing yards by halftime and added three rushing and one receiving touchdown to his season total. Quarterback Jackson Argoe had three touchdown passes on the night, including an 80-yard strike to Ray Johnson late in the first half. The defense held the Panthers to one touchdown, with Marquis Byrd blocking the extra point.
“It changes how my offensive coordinators call the game. It changes the mindset of the kids. It changes the complexity of the game. We build off what they do. If the defense is on, the offense has momentum. They get it done,” said Feeney about how much pressure defensive success relieves, especially when led by Byrd. “That kid’s motor is unbelievable, his motor never stops. He is the heartbeat in the middle of that defense. When he is out there teams have to make adjustments.”
Argoe lauded the defense as well, giving their success credit for taking pressure of the passing game. “Knowing that the defense is doing their job, and doing it consistently helps us as an entire offense feel more comfortable about what we can do. We don’t feel pressured that we have to score even though the goal is to score every drive,” said Argoe. “As the season progresses I can feel the comfort level going up, especially up front, the line is doing a great job and having Ray in the backfield to take some of the load off is a great help too. As the season progresses timing gets better everything flows together more. that’s just more reps in practice and the more we get the better it gets.”
With five wins in a row since losing to Kent Island, Elkton seems on the same path for the post season as they were in 2015. Perryville, on the other hand, is struggling at 2-5 after dropping two in a row.
The frustration with Perryville’s performance is easy to see on the face of Head Coach Chris Johnson. “Everything we want is still there, still out there, but we have got to learn from our mistakes and move forward using those mistakes to the best of our ability to get better,” said Johnson about the Panther’s missed opportunities. “We played Havre de Grace down to the wire, Bo Manor down to the wire. We can be a good football team. We need to pick plays up and correct things. The old cliché you are only as good as your weakest link, and our guys are taking turns being that link. I see it when I watch film, this time it was you, that time it was you. At the end of the day, Elkton has the potential to go far. They are probably the most talented team I have seen on paper and film.”
Johnson added how impressed he is with Elkton’s main threat, Raiquon Estep. “He is a talent, there is no doubt about it, with that speed, the one thing about him that impresses me he has really good vision. You can be a great athlete with incredible speed but to be somebody who has that kind of speed with vision and balance, that’s a rare combination,” said Johnson. “He is blessed and they have used him well. They put him deep in the I-formation and some of the plays they pull the guard and he just finds a sliver in the seam and he is gone.”
Even after the lopsided loss, Johnson is looking at the future. Perryville is not out of playoff contention. “We have to get back to work. The good thing about tonight is we got out of it healthy with no major injuries and we can get to work on Monday, a short week and then North East. North East is improving. I think the coach is doing a tremendous job they are gonna come in hungry for a win. We got three practices and they need to be the best practices of the year going into Thursday,” said Johnson. “We’re looking at a three game season and we have got to go 3-and-0.”