Fortune snowballed in the opposite direction for the Elma Eagles in a 28-10 loss to Castle Rock on Friday at Davis Field in Elma.
The Eagles (1-2 overall) were locked in a close game at halftime with the Rockets (1-2), but a disastrous third quarter led to three Castle Rock touchdown in just over three minutes of game time, and Elma never recovered.
The Eagles opened the scoring when kicker Matthew Wood drilled a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter after a promising Elma drive stalled inside the Rockets 10-yard line.
Castle Rock took a 7-3 lead into the half after receiver Thatcher Heller caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Rogen over the top of the Elma defense with less than a minute gone in the second quarter.
Elma’s offense took its next drive down into the Rockets red zone, but ended with a turnover on downs followed later in the quarter with an Elma drive that started and ended at midfield as the Eagles went three-and-out.
With Elma still very much in the game despite its offense suffering from an abundance of penalties and poor timing, the Eagles offense took the second-half kickoff and drove to the Rockets 23-yard line.
But as what would be a theme throughout the game, Elma’s offense sputtered late in the drive after initially showing promise. A false-start penalty pushed the Eagles back to the 27 and was followed by an interception of a Studer pass to give the ball back to the Rockets.
Elma’s defense forced a Rockets three-and-out and the offense got the ball back with excellent field position at the Castle Rock 41.
But an illegal shift penalty followed by three incompletions had the Eagles punting on fourth down. Disaster struck as the snap sailed far over Elma punter Jacob Meadows’ head and deep into Eagles territory, allowing the Rockets to take over at the Eagles 20.
Castle Rock’s offense would not let the opportunity slip away, needing two plays to score on a 16-yard run from junior running back Owen Langdon for a 14-3 lead with 3:19 to go in the quarter.
Approximately one minute later, Landon intercepted a Studer pass and returned it 45 yards for a pick-six touchdown and a 21-3 lead.
After an Elma three-and-out followed by a blocked punt, Castle Rock went up by three scores on a 7-yard run from half back Ian Burton, giving the Rockets a 28-3 lead with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
With top lineman Tanner Thompson and Studer on the sideline nursing minor ailments, a comeback looked bleak for the Eagles.
But backup sophomore quarterback Isaac McGaffey – who has emerged as a top wideout for the Eagles this season – drove the Eagles deep into Rockets territory with a rollout pass to receiver Blaize Salazar for 19 yards.
A few plays later, McGaffey ran it in from 9-yards out with just 21.8 seconds on the clock to give the Elma faithful something to cheer about, albeit short-lived.
The play came with its fair share of controversy as Elma sophomore lineman Donovan Kalakosky was grabbed by the face mask while driving Castle Rock senior lineman Ethan Inman to the ground on a legal block.
The celebration of McGaffey’s touchdown was cut short as medical personnel immediately rushed out to Kalakosky, who was on his hands and knees writhing in pain while having trouble breathing after being allegedly struck in the throat area after the play.
Castle Rock was charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but no player was ejected from the game despite protests from the Elma coaching staff.
Elma coaches plan to send the game film to the WIAA for review and further possible disciplinary action.
The play infuriated several Elma players and led to some words being exchanged during the post-game handshake. Coaches from both teams intervened and the public-address announcer ordered the field to be cleared as both teams headed to their respective locker rooms without further incident.
According to Elma co-head coach Larry Raynes, Kalakosky was breathing and talking normally after the game and left under his own recognisance.
As for the game, Elma outgained Castle Rock 253-228, but turned the ball over three times and had eight penalties for 46 yards, most being minor 5-yarders that often curtailed Elma offensive drives and momentum.
“We were battling and adapting the the adversity that came our way and it kind of got us. We got in our own way with a lot of penalties,” Raynes said.
The Eagles will look to get back on track when they host Columbia (White Salmon) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Castle Rock 0 7 21 0 – 28
Elma 3 0 0 7 – 10
E – Wood 22 field goal, 4:47
CR – Heller 19 pass from Rogen (Wallace kick), 7:05
CR – Langdon 16 rush (Wallace kick), 3:19
CR – Langdon 44 interception return (Wallace kick), 2:18
CR – Burton 8 run (Wallace kick), 0:13
E – McGaffey 10 run (Wood kick), 0:21
Passing leaders: CR – Rogen 1-20-1-72. E – Studer 8-21-2-102, McGaffey 5-8-0-90.
Rushing leaders: CR – Burton 14-104, Langdon 4-22, Heller 4-20, Orth 1-7, Swhihart 1-2, Rogen 5-1. E – Muller 12-31, Phillips 5-18, McGaffey 7-16, Salazar 1-2, Reeves 2-0, Studer 3-(-11).
Receiving leaders: CR – Mead 2-28, Heller 1-19, Langdon 3-14, Burton 2-9, Williams 1-2. E – Wright 2-51, Brookins 2-36, Meadows 3-31, Reeves 1-25, Schnieder 1-20, Salazar 1-19, McGaffey 2-15, Muller 1-0.