2A Football State Quarterfinals: Elkton vs. Liberty

Elkton senior Jakeem Jackson (2) celebrates during the closing seconds of the Golden Elks’ 47-14 state quarterfinal win over visiting Liberty Friday night.

ELKTON — Trevin Ewing said it best.

Elkton’s senior wide receiver explained his team’s mindset following its 47-14 domination of visiting Liberty Friday night in the 2A state quarterfinals.

The Golden Elks are not taking this incredible ride they are on for granted, but they’re not complacent either. They understand and appreciate that they are one of only four teams still standing, but that’s not good enough. Not this year.

“These are moments that we cherish, but we still know that ultimately, the goal is the state championship,” Ewing said following his three-touchdown performance. “We just keep a level head.”

Elkton returns to the state semifinals for a second straight year, where last season ended in humbling fashion. The Elks’ 38-0 loss to Oakdale one game shy of the state championship fueled the work they put in all offseason. A constant reminder of the season-ending shutout hung in weight room.

“It leaves a taste in the boys’ mouth that they want to get rid of. They’ve been hungry since,” Elkton head coach Matt Feeney said. “We got in the weight room in December last year and we put a picture with the Oakdale score up, with Tashawn [Watters] and six silver helmets surrounding him and just burying him. That’s not happening again. That was what we said. We get a chance to right some wrongs next week.”

The Elks began correcting the wrongs with a 31-14 win over Oakdale in Week 5, arguably the biggest victory of a 9-0 regular season. Feeney’s revenge tour continues next week when Elkton hosts Middletown seeking its first state final appearance since 2016.

“Middletown is a physical football team. We’ve been on the wrong end of them before in 2012,” he said. “Coach [Michael] Rossi played that year. I was defensive coordinator. We got it handed to us, so we’re looking for a little redemption.”

The players most likely don’t recall that one, but they remember last year’s loss in the upcoming round vividly. Elkton graduated just five seniors from last year’s squad, so a bulk of the roster returned.

“It’s what got us to this point. We got in the weight room in the offseason. We worked hard there,” senior quarterback Nolan Null, a two-year starter, said. “We did what we were supposed to do. We brought it to the season. We’re rolling now and we’re just planning on keeping it going.”

Null spoke after throwing five touchdown passes against Liberty. One went to fellow senior John Rhodan, who also intercepted a pass defensively.

“We’ve been training all offseason, just working and grinding for this moment,” Rhodan said. “We’re not done yet.”

Clearly.

There was no jumping up and down or celebratory dog pile. Feeney received a customary Gatorade shower at the conclusion of an undefeated regular season, but has remained dry following all three playoff wins. If it weren’t for the frigid temperature, one might one might confuse the victory for an insignificant early-season triumph.

“We’re a step closer,” he said. “We’re going to come out fighting next week and give our best effort. If we get the result that we want, I still don’t think that you’re going to see a lot of jubilance. We’re going to be excited, but they’ve got a task that they’re shooting for.”

Null stated the task bluntly, just as Ewing had.

“We’re focused. We know what the goal is – the state championship,” he said. “The only way to get there is to stay humble, come out here, and put in the work.”

Before Elkton gets the chance to play for the ultimate goal, it must take care of business against Middletown. And before the Elks can do that comes Feeney’s favorite practice – one that only four teams are fortunate enough to hold: The Thanksgiving walk-through.

“We preach family and we try to live it. It’s an opportunity to get together, get out here on a cold Thursday morning, do our walk-through, be together, give thanks to the things we’re thankful for in our lives and each other,” he said. “I’ve never walked off this field not feeling a sense of gratitude for being able to be a part of these guys and this game and this community. It’s just very fulfilling.”

Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig

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