Avenging a lopsided, 35-0, playoff loss from a year ago, the third seed Elkton Elks outlasted host and number two seed Harford Tech Friday night, winning the Class 2A East semifinal, 21-14.
Also Friday night, Havre de Grace was in the win column, while Edgewood was not.
At Tech, both teams turned the ball over, but three of Tech’s four mishaps came inside the Elkton 10-yard line and the Cobras could not fully recover.
“It’s came down to the game of inches and Elkton came in here to fight and they came to fight and that’s what they did, my hat’s off to them,” Tech coach Tim Palmer said. “They had a good game plan and they were hungry.”
The Cobras forced a turnover on the opening kick. Elkton’s Kharee Stephens raced over 70 yards with the return, only to have the ball stripped away by tackler Jalen Dangerfield.
The Elks (9-2) turned it over again their next possession. Quarterback Nolan Null was hit while passing and Tech’s Ike Udolisa picked off the wobbly pass at the Cobras 38.
The Cobras (9-2) took advantage and put up the game’s first points, marching 62 yards in nine plays. A pass interference call against Elkton moved the ball to the Elks 11 and two snaps later, Dangerfield (31 carries, 132 yards) ran 11 yards for the score with 2:01 left in the first quarter. Tyler Long’s kick made is 7-0.
Elkton wasted little time pulling even. Tashawn Watters (16 carries, 103 yards) ripped off 58 yards on first down to the Tech 15. Five downs later, Watters scored from a yard out and Jacob Bosler added the kick to tie game.
Elkton added a quick strike early in the second quarter to go ahead. Quarterback Null connected with Mike Vass for a 47-yard touchdown and Bosler added the kick.
Tech appeared to be in good shape with the ensuing possession, but on a fourth and one from the Elkton six, Chuck Brown, who had the first down, had the ball jarred from his grip and Elkton’s Frank Turner recovered at the Elks five.
The Elks ended the half with the ball and the 14-7 lead.
Tech’s first possession of the second half ended with Aaron Hawkins picking off a Ryan Hunt pass in the end zone.
Elkton, meanwhile, had a 60-yard touchdown run by Gregg Triplett called back by an unsportsmanlike penalty and three snaps later, the Elks fumbled the ball back to the Cobras with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.
Tech ran one play, a loss of four yards, to end the third quarter. The normal short delay was extended due to an injury to Tech junior lineman Logan Seling. Seling was taken away by ambulance with a neck injury for precautionary reasons.
Out of the delay, Tech hit a pair of big plays to pull even. Hunt passed to Dangerfield for a 30-yard gain and Jeremiah Minter took the next handoff 47 yards for the score.
“Coach called the play and my team was blocking, we wanted to do this for our friend [Seling], so just capitalizing,” Minter said. The play a 28 stretch put the ball in Minter's hands and he did the rest. He turned the corner and raced untouched to the end zone.
Elkton responded with the scoring drive that proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. Triplett had the big play, busting loose on a 50-yard run on third and four to the Tech 12.
Two plays later it was Triplett scoring from nine yards out to put the Elks ahead for good.
Tech’s next possession looked promising after Minter ran 34 yards to the Elkton six.
Unfortunately, Tech lost four and three yards, respectively, over the next two downs and then an incomplete pass on third down.
The Cobras elected for a field goal try, from 31 yards, but the snap was high and despite holder Hunt getting it down, kicker Long could not get the ball in the air.
The Cobras were back in business seconds later when Elkton’s Trevin Ewing fumbled the ball back to the Cobras at his own nine-yard line. Zachary Pippen made the recovery.
On first down, however, Hunt’s pass over the middle was picked off by Watters. Watters reached up with one hand, snagged the ball and the Tech hopes out of the air. “Coach always been preaching, make our own breaks, so I saw the ball coming, so I tried my best to make the play and thank God I did,” Watters said.
Tech had two more possessions, but one ended with Hawkins making his second interception and the other with Hunt taking a sack on fourth and 13.
“We kept it interesting, we give it to them, and we have to take it back,” Elkton coach Matthew Feeney said. “Our guys stepped up when they needed to step up and we got the stop when we needed to get the stop, so I’m really proud of those guys.”