Monticello's Calvin Schmitz (25) and Ray Fasen (17) force a fumble from Elk River's Collin Nelson on a kick return. After a messy opening quarter the Elks rallied to score 20 unanswered points and defeat the Magic 28-12. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Elk River hasn’t had the same luck and quick-strike ability on the ground from last fall when the Elks went 13-0 en route to the program’s first state title.
“Last year we never had any injuries,” coach Steve Hamilton said. “The football gods smiled upon us.”
Lead running back Adam Nelson was sick in the hospital all week, and after Sherrod Kpahn was knocked out of the game in the first half, Elk River’s options were limited.
Without their two fastest running back, the Elks grinded out a 28-12 win in the Magic’s inaugural game at Monticello Memorial Stadium Friday night. Elk River (2-0, 1-0), the top-ranked team in the Associated Press Class 5A poll, trailed in the first quarter but shutout the Magic the final three quarters in their North Central Blue Division opener.
“They put on a great show, it was a really fun atmosphere,” quarterback Mitch Stroh said. “It doesn’t get much better on Friday night than this. This is something you’ll look back upon when you’re 40 years old and think that’s something pretty cool I’ll never forget.”
Stroh, starting his first year under center, embodies Elk River’s hard-nosed run-game. He led the Elks with 101 tackles at strong safety last year and has struggled to suppress his punishing presence on the other side of the ball.
“I try to tell him ‘this isn’t like last year. We need you at QB, you gotta avoid hits’ and he doesn’t like to do that at all,” Hamilton said. “That’s somewhat to his detriment.”
Jon Suchy and Stroh started the game fresh, breaking off touchdown runs of 27 and 23 yards in the first half, respectively.
But as their legs and bodies wore down, large gains on the ground were few and far between in a scoreless third quarter where they chewed up the clock. Elk River suffered several injuries and had to continue to play the game with a patchwork offense, which lacked chemistry because it hasn’t had the chance to develop yet.
Ronald Audette, who anchors the offensive line as the only returner from last year, provided crucial leadership when the Elks pieced together a 10-play drive for track-star Kevin Egjubor’s first touchdown with under two minutes left in the first half to take the lead.
Egjubor, in a supplementary role, relieved his teammates’ aches with a 28-yard touchdown run he took outside in the fourth quarter to ward off a surging Monticello (0-2, 0-1) team.
“It was a battle for sure,” Stroh said. “The team buckled down and persevered through the whole game.”
Elk River’s Power-T formation that lines three players in line behind Stroh may appear the same as last year, but this year’s group knows yards will be harder to come by and welcome the adversity.
“When it comes down to it, it’s going to be attitude, effort and energy,” Stroh said. “That’s all you can control and if our guys do it every week -- if they’re close games they’re close games -- but if we know we put everything into it that’s all we can ask of our guys.”
A video board shows live play behind the north end zone of the new state-of-the-art complex in Monticello. The Magic's game against the Elks' Friday night was the grand opening. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Kevin Egjubor broke off a 28-yard touchdown run with four minutes left in the game to fend off a late resurgence by the Magic and clinch Elk River its first North Central Blue Division win 28-12 Friday night at Monticello High School.
Ranked first in the Class 5A Associated Press poll, Elk River (2-0, 1-0) held the Magic scoreless for the final three quarters after trailing in the first quarter when they surrendered 12 points.
Jon Suchy finished with 145 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground, while quarterback Mitchell Stroh ran for a score and 64 yards.
Ethan Bosacker completed 14 of 31 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown for Monticello (0-2, 0-1).
Monticello junior quarterback Ethan Bosacker completed 14 of 31 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
The MN Football Hub polls are for entertainment purposes only.
Elk River senior captain Mitchell Stroh (2) runs the offense as the quarterback, and anchors the Elks defense as a back. Photo by Drew Herron