After opening the 2020 season with two losses and its worse start to the season since 2013, the Elks have now won three straight games.
Elk River (4-2, 2-2) defeated Monticello (3-2, 1-2) 30-12 on Thursday, Nov. 5 at Jerry Schempf Field at Elk River High School in the Elks annual homecoming game.
Head coach Steve Hamilton said Elk River played well in their penultimate home game of the season. He said it was important to score the first touchdown of the game.
“It’s always important because (in) all high school sports, so much of it is momentum,” Hamilton said. “It’s amazing how one play, one touchdown can bring a whole lot of momentum to one side and take it away from the other. Any time you (take) the lead, it gives your kids confidence, especially for us this year for as young as we are. Obviously, we’re playing better and better, but it’s still a really inexperienced group. So anytime they have a little success, they gain confidence.”
Neither the Magic nor the Elks could score in the first half. Elk River opened the score with 10:32 remaining in the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Cade Osterman found senior running back Carter Otto who was open for a seven-yard touchdown reception. It was Otto’s third receiving touchdown of the season and eighth overall including rushing touchdowns. A two-point conversion run by Osterman made the score 8-0 Elk River.
Elk River junior running back Dylan “Nighthawk” Matykiewicz extended the Elks lead to 14-0 with 1:23 to go in the second quarter when he ran 12-yards for his second touchdown of the season. Junior kicker Rylen Keoraj made the extra point to make it 15-0 Elk River.
Monticello cut the lead to 15-6 with 21 seconds remaining in the second quarter when senior fullback Calvin Schmitz found senior running back Sam Valor for his third touchdown of the season. The Elks carried a 15-6 lead over the Magic at halftime. A two-point conversion attempt pass from Schmitz to junior wide receiver Wyatt Sawatzke was unsuccessful.
During halftime, senior linebacker Ryan Wilson was crowned Elk River High School’s homecoming king for 2020 along with senior Payton Nivala.
When play resumed, Elk River opened up the game when senior running back Rahim Avery ran 43-yards for his fourth touchdown of the season with 4:46 remaining in the third quarter. Senior tight end Colton Strain caught a pass from Osterman for a successful two-point conversion to make it 23-6. Monticello answered with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Valor ran five yards for his second touchdown of the game and seventh rushing touchdown of the season. Sawatzke came to kick the extra point but his attempt was unsuccessful.
Avery sealed the deal for the Elks when he ran 35 yards for his second touchdown of the game and fifth of the season with 6:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. Keoraj made the extra point to make it 30-6 Elks.
Hamilton said Elk River is getting better and gaining more experience as the season progresses.
“I told them after the game they’re not sophomores anymore,” he said. “They’re not inexperienced players anymore. They’ve been there. They know how to win and they certainly look more like an Elk River football team here the last couple of games.”
Offensive Player of the Game
Avery’s two touchdowns gave Elk River breathing room.
Hamilton said Avery created plays on his own which indicates his gifts as an athlete.
“Especially his first touchdown, he made that play almost by himself,” Hamilton said. “He went out past the direction where it was called and when it was blocked. He spun off a tackle and made a play. It was a really cool thing to see and its something that Rahim can do. He’s a gifted athlete.”
Defensive Player of the Game
In addition to being crowned homecoming king, Wilson made his night even sweeter when he intercepted a pass by Schmitz in the fourth quarter to thwart a Magic scoring opportunity. It was Wilson’s first interception of the season and first since Sept. 20, 2019.
Elk River will play Robbinsdale Armstrong (4-1, 3-0) in the Section 6-5A semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 1 p.m. at Jerry Schempf Field at Elk River High School. It’s a rematch of the 2019 Section 6-5A championship game. The Elks defeated the Falcons 32-29 in last year’s section championship game on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 at St. Michael-Albertville High School to advance to their fourth consecutive state tournament since 2016. The winner of the Saturday, Nov. 21 section semifinal will advance to the Section 6-5A championship game on Friday, Nov. 27 at Buffalo High School. The time of the game has yet to be determined.