When the ELCO football team reaches the inevitable end of the 2023 season at some point in the next several weeks, there will undoubtedly be a sense of sadness in the air.
But it will not be the kind that is rooted in a disappointing loss or a less-than-peak performance. Rather, it will be the type of sadness that comes with simply not spending as much time together.
The Raiders, you see, very much enjoy all the intricacies of football, the strategy, the game planning, the reading and reacting, as well as the more primal aspects of blocking and tackling that define the game.
But they don’t enjoy it more than they enjoy each other.
That’s a good thing, because they’ll be spending at least the next week together.
Behind a 250-yard, three-touchdown performance from senior feature back Jake Williams ELCO assured itself of more time to solidify its bond and legacy Friday night by dismantling Big Spring 34-7 in a District 3 Class 4A first round matchup in chilly Myerstown.
Now 8-3 and bound for next Friday’s quarterfinal round at No. 2 seed Twin Valley, the seventh-seeded Raiders needed less than three minutes of the opening quarter to take the lead for good and give themselves another 48 minutes side-by-side underneath the Friday night lights.
“It’s really exciting to have 48 more minutes together with these guys,” said ELCO head coach Bob Miller. “We talked last night about how the best leaders are givers, so you give heart, you give energy, you give effort, you give everything you have. It was a great week to have everybody step up and have a solid team victory.”
“I think the biggest thing I’m excited about is we have another week,” said Williams. “It’s a pretty close bond. It makes practice fun, it makes the games fun.”
As usual Wlliams stepped up in the most visible way, accumulating 60 of his 251 yards on the ground on the opening march, and covering the final 8 yards on a blast up the middle that put ELCO on top 7-0 with 9:14 still to play in the first quarter.
Despite missing ELCO’s week 9 win vs. Donegal because of injury, Williams entered Friday’s contest less than 20 yards shy of 2,000 for the season. Appropriately, he surpassed 2,000 on his first carry of the night, a 27- yard jaunt off the right side while racking up 201 yards in the first half alone. He finished with the 251 yards on 29 carries.
“That was nice to set the tone,” Williams said of the first scoring drive. “It gave us a confidence to know what we can do.”
“I just felt like everything was clicking,” Miller said of that opening march.”Our guys put on what I thought was a pretty dominant performance up front, and almost made things easy for Jake . If he has holes (to run through) it’s great.”
ELCO would up its lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter in more unconventional fashion, when quarterback Steven Rosado picked up a fumble and squirted 22 yards into the end zone with 10:34 still to play in the first half.
Williams would then cross the goal line for the second time on another 8-yard jaunt with 2:56 to go in the half to push the lead to 21-0
Then, after Big Spring (6-5) finally got on the board with 40 seconds to go before intermission, Williams gave the visitors precious little time to enjoy it, dashing 65 yards on the ensuing ELCO drive for his third and final TD of the night.
“We gave up a score, there’s 40 seconds left,” said Miller. “And Coach Wetzel (assistant coach John) said why don’t we run the jet sweep one more time. It wasn’t there, until Jake cuts back two or three times and goes all the way. That’s what he brings every single play. He’s a kid who can break one at any time.”
Elliot Kreider added a two-run TD run for ELCO in the third quarter of what was largely an uneventful second half due in large part to ELCO’s first half dominance.
That allowed for a little peak ahead to next week’s opponent and the opportunity that presents itself.
“We’ll enjoy tonight and celebrate and then get back at it tomorrow,” Miller said. “Twin Valley has some tough, physical kids but we have the tools to match them.”
Find more photos of last night’s game below.
Head Coach: Robert Miller
Assistant Coaches: John Carley, Robert Williams, Wyatt Hall, Earl Thomas, John Wetzel
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