The East Wilkes Cardinals are flying high after the beatdown they put on the Elkin Buckin’ Elks Friday night. Having mental focus can win games, but losing it can also be disastrous.
In a thrashing that used to be allowed only in horror films, the Cardinals scored eight times in a 55-0 blowout. For the first four plays of the game, Elkin looked decent, forcing what looked like was going to be a three and out, but on a fourth-and-4 situation, East Wilkes Head Coach JK Adkins sent the offense back out and drew the Buckin’ Elks offsides.
“At that point, we went hard count to see what happened, and the rest is history,” Adkins said.
On the next play, senior Andrew Nance ran for a long touchdown, and the rout was on. From there on out, East Wilkes dominant on both sides of the ball, leading 35-0 at the half. Nance and senior Camon Bryan each had three touchdowns on the night. It’s been a long time coming for the Cardinals, who hadn’t beat Elkin since 2011.
“It keeps us going,” Bryan said. “We need to stay humble and stay hungry and take it one day at a time.”
It took a team effort to keep Elkin from getting anywhere close to the endzone. Much like the offense was winning the battle of the trenches, so was the defense. Even punting the ball didn’t work out for the Buckin’ Elks, as junior Andrew Elmore came up with a punt block in the first half. Senior Quincy Lineberger also forced a fumble.
For the seniors, it’s their first win against Elkin during their time at East Wilkes. Sound familiar? That’s because last week, they accomplished that same feat with a 49-0 win over Alleghany. The past two games have been obstacles to overcome, but they’ve done so successfully, and are rewarded by their 7-0 record, good for sole possession of first place in the MVAC. Coach Adkins said that he told the seniors when they were freshmen that they’d be the ones to change the culture of this team. It was around January, he said, that he truly started to believe that.
“There was just something about that group,” Adkins said. “The closeness of the group, and the overall talent, and I felt that if we cultivated that with time they’d be the ones to change the face of the program.”
“We are a band of brothers who love playing with each other,” Nance said. “We just have a lot of guys who want to win and keep getting better everyday.”
When one of those brothers went down, senior quarterback Chris Ward due to a torn ACL, it showed fans a glimpse of the future of this team. Sophomore Bryce Vestal now has two starts at QB, both coming in blowout wins over rivals. Vestal’s biggest play of the night was a fake handoff that fooled the East Wilkes sideline just as much as it fooled Elkin’s defense. As much of the defensive line tried to tackle Camon Bryan, Vestal was already running away for a 51-yard touchdown. The young quarterback seems to be settling in, and that poses a threat to the remaining four teams the Cardinals play.
“Bryce was just thrown in a fire. No real preparation, it was just, ‘Go.’ We’re all behind him. Everybody freaks out when anybody does good, because we’re all one on the field,” Elmore said.
East Wilkes hosts Ashe County (4-3, 3-0 MVAC) Friday night.
As for other teams around the county, Forbush (4-3, 1-0 WPAC) spoiled South Stokes’ homecoming with a 42-35 win to start off conference play strong. Starmount (4-3, 2-1 MVAC) did not have such luck, losing to Wilkes Central 41-14 (6-1, 2-1 MVAC). Forbush and Starmount both have their homecoming game scheduled for Friday night. However, Starmount’s game, against North Wilkes is scheduled to start at an earlier time at 5:15. Forbush plays West Stokes at 7:30.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.