Blazers end long losing streak in overtime against Elks

Tim Peterson

ELK RAPIDS — The Kalkaska side of the field erupted in celebration as the Elk Rapids two point conversion attempt fell short of the goal line in overtime on Friday night, snapping a 26-game Kalkaska losing streak with a 30-28 win.

Moments earlier the Elks were in a cheering frenzy after quarterback Max Irelan threaded  the needle with a fourth down, 12-yard touchdown pass to a heavily-covered Mason Barnhard. The successful two-point attempt would have sent the teams into a second round of overtime, but the Blazers’ Ethan Schaub tripped up Barnhard on a sweep giving Kalkaska its first win since early October of 2017.

“This was a huge relief because it’s been a long time since the program won. These kids have never won a varsity game, and for them to know what that feels like is huge,” said Blazer head football coach Jeremy Wilkinson.

The game was played in Elk Rapids, the season and conference opener for both squads. Kalkaska took first possession, putting together an eight-play scoring drive ending with Chris Gay running past the Elks’ defense with a 17-yard touchdown sprint. Justin Harlan tacked on the two-point conversion with a pitchout run for an 8-0 lead three minutes into the game. The Elks tied the game two plays into the second quarter on a 16-yard toss from Irelan to John Vanderheide. The two point try was successful with a run up the middle by Declan Shockley. The Blazers answered with an 11-play scoring drive that started from their own 30, culminating with a 28-yard touchdown strike from Landen Hart to Harlan. The two-point try failed giving Kalkaska a 14-8 lead with five minutes left in the half. A successful onside kick gave the ball right back to Kalkaska, but the Blazers couldn’t take advantage and had to punt. A sack by Schaub buried the Elks deep in their own territory, forcing a punt from their own 15-yard line. The ball appeared to touch a Blazer defender then scooped up by an alert Chase DeArment and retuned 70 yards for an Elk Rapids touchdown. The referee crew waved off the score, ruling the ball should be marked down at the spot the Kalkaska player had touched it, as he was attempting to get out of the way rather than attempting to catch the punt. The Elk Rapids faithful disagreed, but the ball was placed at the Blazers’ 30 with under a minute to play in the first half. The Elks attempted a 47-yard field goal on fourth down, but the kick was no good and the teams went into halftime with Kalkaska holding a 14-8 lead.

The Elks began the third with the ball on the 50 yard line after an unsuccessful onside kick attempt by the Blazers and began to move the ball downfield with several runs. Barnhard broke free on a sweep, and was hauled down by a horse collar tackle. The run plus the penalty gave the Elks the ball at the Blazers’ 6. Irelan churned through the middle for the touchdown, then passed to Barnhard for the extra two points and the first Elk Rapids lead of the game at 16-14. The rest of the quarter was scoreless, despite both teams showing flashes of moving the ball.

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