ELMA — Elma’s football team walked off Davis Field on Friday night believing that it gave Eatonville the game on Friday night.
The Cruisers were more than happy to take the game, converting two Eagle fumbles into first-half touchdowns and sealing the game late for a 28-19 non-league win.
In all, Elma fumbled the ball away four times to Eatonville, including two muffed punts, on the night. Three of Elma’s four fumbles led to Eatonville touchdowns.
“As far as I’m concerned, we absolutely gave the game away,” Elma head coach Jim Hill said. “It was just like last week (against Hockinson). Once we find a way to win, we’ll be back.
“Obviously, we gave them two free touchdowns and you just can’t do that,” Hill added. “In the second quarter, we got some momentum going and dropped some balls. We had a roughing the passer call on us. We started to get momentum, then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve played two quality opponents and we competed very well. Again, we need to clean up our turnovers and mistakes.”
The first-half fumbles were crucial for Elma (0-2), since Eatonville (1-1) had little offensive flow against its defense.
Late in the first quarter, quarterback Ryan Collin was hit and stripped of the football at the Eagle 6-yard line. The Cruisers’ Caleb Keefer recovered the ball. Three plays later, George Tomal ran in from 1-yard out for the opening touchdown. Kick holder Joe Evans scrambled away for the 2-point conversion at 8-0.
The second miscue came on a second-quarter punt to Elma. Punt returner Rashad Lorton never got a handle on the kick and Eatonville’s Tomal recovered the ball on the Eagle 19-yard line.
Just like the first scoring drive, three plays were needed. This time, quarterback Jacob McCormick hit Justin Kaelin on a slant pattern for a 14-yard touchdown score and a 15-6 lead.
Between the miscues, Elma launched the game’s second-longest drive — a 13-play, 90-yard march that featured a quick-running offense the Eagles employed throughout the contest. Elma kept Eatonville’s defense on its toes with a no-huddle attack. Collin was 6-for-6, 69 yards passing, capped by a 28-yard middle streak route touchdown to Kevin Farr. The point-after kick missed for an 8-6 score early in the second.
Late in the first half, Elma marched again, this time a 10-play, 82-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Todd Swinhart. Swinhart and Steve Persell paced the drive on the ground, rumbling for 53 yards combined.
So, even with the turnovers in the first half, Elma was only down by two, 15-13, at halftime.
“At halftime, we felt like we could stop them and score every time we had the ball,” Hill added. “Of course, if you drop balls and have penalties, a missed block. You have to take it one play at a time and we didn’t do that.”
Both teams put together long drives that ate up yardage and time in the second half. However, the Cruisers found a way to cap two of them for touchdowns.
With less than 30 seconds left in the third quarter, Eatonville capped a 65-yard, 9-play drive that was aided by a roughing the passer penalty. Running back Jeff Patterson provided most of the offense before Tomal ran twice — an 18-yard sweep to the Elma 5-yard line and a 5-yard counter run for a touchdown — for a 21-13 lead.
Elma’s only third-quarter drive grabbed 49 yards on 13 plays, but stalled at the Eatonville 35-yard line. Unfortunately, the final Eagle fumble sealed the game for the Cruisers.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Persell lost the football at midfield. The Cruisers’ Isaac Boettcher recovered the ball. Five plays later, Evans got his touchdown when he broke through three Elma defenders en route to a 30-yard scoring run for Eatonville’s final touchdown.
Elma made it interesting with a Collin-to-Swinhart 9-yard touchdown pass play with 47.2 seconds left in the contest. However, it came at the end of a 17-play, 91-yard drive and left little time remaining. The PAT kick failed at 28-19 and the onside kick went Eatonville’s way to end the contest.
On Friday, Elma will stay home to begin Evergreen 1A play against Tenino.