MYERSTOWN – In a first quarter for the ages, one that actually seemed to last ages, the Elco football asserted its will by forcefully going right at Northern Lebanon, which was making the short trek from Fredericksburg in a local county battle. The Raiders made that strong start stand up, during a 43-32 Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three victory over the Vikings on Friday night.
After 12 minutes, the Raiders led 27-7, powered by record-setting performances from fullback Luke Williams and fellow captain and quarterback Cole Thomas. Williams rushed for over 260 yards, in three quarters, on TD runs of 67 and 68 yards. While Thomas, who had a solid night yardage wise as well, scored four touchdowns himself.
The Raiders must have seen something, as they played much of the first half without a wide receiver, and had a very simple game plan of going right at the Vikings. Elco head coach Bob Miller said “The o-line is where it all started. We just kept hammering it, and hammering it.”
The Raiders finished with an astonishing 455 rushing yards on 54 carries.
The Vikings did notch a couple of strikes in the first half, including a dazzling 54-yard touchdown catch by Kayden Clark, who weaved through some Raider defensive backs to make it 14-7. That was the closest Northern Lebanon would come all night however, as Elco answered quickly with two more rushing TDs.
After the almost hour-long first quarter, the game did settle down. The teams exited the first half with the Raiders leading 30-13, as fill-in kicker Landen Gettle knocked in a short field goal for Elco, and Moises Gonzalez caught a 14-yard touchdown pass for Northern Lebanon. The third quarter breezed through quicker, and once Eloc stretched the lead to 43-14 early in the fourth period, the game was essentially out of reach.
The Vikings added a few TDs late in the last few minutes to complete the scoring for a 43-32 finish.
Coach Miller was especially pleased with the defense on the night. Miller mentioned the preparation their players went through all week as the difference, many players “studying extra hard, talking to each other, and on off-hours” to win this typically unfriendly rival game on senior night.
Last week saw Elco’s defense give up huge numbers through the air, and with NL being a pass-centered offense, he was pleased with their response, holding down the Vikings’ air attack for much of the night, even while doing so amongst numerous injuries. Miller said the Raiders have been playing shorthanded all year, with most of their “DB’s seeing their first game experience at the HS level, and some playing football for the first time in their lives. These kids are really starting to perform – Eddie Rodriguez, Dom Thornton and so many others – kids getting hands on balls, getting deflections.”
For seniors Thomas, L. Williams and many others, it was a fitting last game on their home field, where they have seen tremendous success over the past four years. Williams’ stat line included 20 carries for 267 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Thomas added 21 carries for 138 yards and four TDs.
Both players were key cogs on the defensive side as well, with Williams stuffing the majority of Viking runs, and Thomas, a do-it-all LB/Safety, helping to anchor the secondary on the night. Thomas said, “I always like beating these guys, and we’re hoping to finish out strong these last few games”