Despite it being a neighborhood rivalry game, Elbert and Blake Nicholas travelled a long way in the Bulldogs 42-36 victory over Kiowa in a battle of unbeaten 8-man clubs last Friday night.
Nicholas carried the ball 22 times for 242 yards, scoring four touchdowns and passing for an additional 134 yards and two more touchdowns. As a result, the Bulldogs improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Black Forest League while Kiowa dropped to 4-1, 1-1.
Nicholas would put the cap on his sensational night by scoring the winning touchdown on an 82-yard run with 5:40 left in the game, breaking a 36-36 tie. That winning effort began at the Bulldog’s 14-yard line after they had stopped Kiowa’s drive. From there, it would only take three plays to gain the win.
The first play was an incomplete pass by Nicholas, followed by a 4-yard run, then his 82-yard blast.
“We definitely have a rivalry with Kiowa, but a lot of us are good friends,” said Nicholas, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior speedster. “But on the field, we have to do what we have to do for our team and school. I think we might have overlooked them, team wise actually. We had our problems at times, too, but we finally woke up and got going. It just seemed long overdue that we did finally got going. But they had the good plays against us, too.”
There certainly was a sigh of relief for Elbert coach Shawn Graves, as well, as he departed the field.
“Blake had a great game as he and the others played with a lot of heart,” Graves said. “To be honest, we didn’t execute well. Kiowa played well against us with a better defense than we thought at first they would bring against us. But our focus was to have that great heart and the kids came through. When we needed the plays, the kids came through for us and Blake certainly came through when it counted.”
It was a tough loss for Kiowa coach Mark Clemmons.
“The kids played with a lot of emotion tonight and played one heck of a game,” Clemmons said. “Elbert has a wealth of good players. Our ground game has been a success, but tonight they were able to put some stops on it. Our passing game was not effective, but again, the kids played hard and we`ll come back..”
Kiowa scored first as the Indians capped the games opening drive on a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Steven Mizak to Isaac Janes with 7 minutes, 27 seconds left in that first quarter. Yet it only took Elbert four plays to respond with 6:14 left in the period.
It was here that Nicholas scored his first touchdown on a 44-yard run then tacked on the extra points with his conversion run that tied the score 8-8. The touchdown, by the way, was setup by a 20-yard run on the previous carry by the Bulldogs’ Al Zelney.
Kiowa responded quickly to Elbert’s score as the Indians Joey Jantz returned the enduing kickoff 80-yards for a touchdown.
On the fourth play of the second quarter, Nicholas threw the first of his touchdown passes hitting Bryce Hutchens of a 24-yarder. The conversion failed, though, leaving Kiowa with a 16-14 lead.
Kiowa added its next touchdown on an 8-yard run by Lonny Trehal. Elbert then bounced back on a six-play drive that traveled 61-yards, capped by a 16-yard Nicholas scamper with 4:23 left in the half.
Both teams would score two touchdowns in third quarter that would set the stage for Elbert’s victory in the fourth.
Kiowa took advantage of an Elbert fumble on the second half kickoff, recovered by Tyler Daughenbaugh, to score first in the quarter on a 9-yard run by Mizak. Nicholas would answer on the ensuing Elbert possession running 70-yards for the touchdown, thus helping stake the Bulldogs to a 30-28 lead with 7:56 left in the period.
Elbert upped the score to 36-28 as Nicholas connected with Dakota Hedger for a 16-yard score with 3:28 left in the quarter. With just :09-seconds left in the third, Kiowa’s Mizak would connect with Isaac Janes from 11-yards out. With the conversion run by Connor Wills the scored was tied 26-36, setting the stage for Nicholas heroics.
“We never could really get it going at first, and this certainly was a good win on our way to winning the league,” said Elbert’s Al Zelney. “I think we came in way over confident and at times we didn’t play as well as we should have. Our defense came up strong when we needed it.”
And that defense, according to the Bulldogs Noah Schafer, certainly was a key.
“In the second half stacked up like it should have and we were able to come through when it counted,” Schafer said. “We played tonight like the huge family that we are. We know a lot of guys over there, but on the field, our team comes first.”
“They were one toughest we’ve played,” said Jantz, who rushed for 147 yards on 21 carries. “We expected to pass, block and tackle much better, but they got away from us. We had a good start, but we just should have played much better defense tonight. I had some good runs, but wish I could have had a few more.”
Added Daughenbaugh, “We played hard, but not our best. Our goal is still to make the playoffs and we expect that. The little things set us back tonight and our mistakes slowed us down. Our defense was off, Blake showed that. But we will put this game behind us and move ahead.”
ELBERT 42, KIOWA 36
Elbert 8 - 14 - 14 - 6 - 42
Kiowa 16 - 6 - 14 - 0 - 36
First quarter: K, Isaac Janes 4 pass from Steven Mizak (Janes pass from Mizak); E, Blake Nicholas 44 run (Nicholas run); K, Joey Jantz 80 kickoff return (Lonny Trehal run).
Second quarter: E, Bryce Hutchens 24 pass from Nicholas (run failed); K, Trehal 8 run (run failed); E, Nicholas 16 run (Dakota Hedger pass from Nicholas).
Third quarter: K, Mizak 9 run (run failed); E, Nicholas 70 run (Nicholas run); E, Dakota Hedger 16 pass from Nicholas (Pass failed). K, Janes 11 pass from Mizak (Connor Wills run).
Fourth quarter: E, Nicholas 82 run (pass failed).
RUSHING: E --Blake Nicholas 22-242; Al Zelney 3-26. K -- Joey Jantz 21-147, Steven Mizak 17-74, Lonny Trehal 22-68, Connor Wills 3-17.
PASSING: E -- Nicholas 5-9 134- 2 T- 1 Int. K -- Mizak 5-25 26- 1 T, 1 Int.
RECEIVING: E -- Bryce Hutchens 2-62, Roger Carlson 1-54, Dakota Hedger 1-16, Al Zelney 1-2. K -- Isaac Janes 2-15, Jantz 1-6, Joey Thomas 1-5, Trehal 1-0.