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Elko forces 6 turnovers — Indians pull away from Rams 35-6
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Elko forces 6 turnovers — Indians pull away from Rams 35-6

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ELKO — The first-ever meeting between the Elko football team and a Canadian opponent came down to takeaways and turnovers.

An abundance for one, too many for the other.

On Saturday night, the Indians created six takeaways — giving up two — winning the turnover battle plus-four versus the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute (Alberta, Canada) Rams.

The comparison of total offense was similar — Elko outgaining LCI 266 yards to 228 — the Rams unable to overcome giving the Indians free possessions.

The Indians improved to 2-0 on the season and dropped the Rams to 2-1, Elko running away with a 35-6 victory.

Elko won the coin toss but deferred to taking the kick in the second half, LCI opening the game with the football in great field position after the Indians’ kick sailed out of bounds.

The Rams moved into Elko territory with a play-action, bootleg-left pass from junior quarterback Ryan Evans to sophomore tight end Carson Procee.

LCI missed an open receiver down the field on a fly route, and Elko’s defense stiffened against the run — forcing fourth down.

The Rams kept the offense on the field and a short pass was stuffed with a tackle in the open field by senior safety Kaden Garcia.

Elko took over on its own 38, moving the ball effectively with a zone run by junior Kaiden Cervantes for 22 yards to the LCI 40.

After another four-yard tote by Cervantes, senior running back Cameron Marvel packed the rock 22 yards to the Rams’ 14.

The drive was capped on the ground — serving as the tone of the night — junior running back Lincoln Ratliff going off the right tackle for a 14-yard touchdown.

Junior Jake Zeller tacked on the extra point, giving the Indians a 7-0 lead with 8:12 remaining in the first quarter.

Elko forced a punt on LCI’s next possession — a combined sack by seniors Rolando Acosta and Max Shurtz setting up 3rd-and-8 — the Rams’ next pass falling incomplete.

The Indians started their next drive on their own 30, but a false start was followed by a turnover — LCI senior Fraser Thomson forcing a fumble near Elko’s sideline, senior defensive lineman Marshall Scott jumping on the recovery.

One takeaway turned into another.

After three-consecutive incomplete passes, the fourth-down pass wound up in the hands of the wrong team — Elko junior linebacker Brigg Johnson sitting in a zone for a pick-six.

Johnson hauled in the pass and went the other way for a 68-yard touchdown return.

The PAT was no good, but the Indians jumped to a 13-0 advantage with 4:41 on the clock.

LCI threw a screen pass to junior receiver Sam McLeod for 13 yards, picking up consecutive first downs on the ground by junior running back Spencer Stanko.

The drive was extended with pass interference by Elko on the first play of the second quarter, the penalty moving the ball to the Indians’ 25.

LCI went backward, committing a delay of game and a false start — the Rams turning the ball over once again.

Zeller picked off a pass, giving Elko their second interception in as many possessions.

Cervantes marched Elko near midfield with multiple runs of 10-plus yards, Zeller crossing the 50 with his legs to the LCI 41.

Elko stalled and punted, Zeller’s kick downed at the 2-yard line with a great hustle play by Acosta — the Indians committing a penalty and kicking once again to the LCI 13.

Evans carried to the 21, and Stanko broke off a 19-yard run to the right side to the 40.

However, Elko forced a punt and took over on its own 41.

Acosta broke a big gain from a toss-left, and Zeller carried back-to-back times — moving the rock to the LCI 24 and the 20.

Acosta took another pitch to the left for 11 yards, Cervantes carrying for three to the LCI 3.

Zeller plunged up the middle on a keeper to the 1, and Acosta added the exclamation point with a battering shot at the goal line for a touchdown.

On the two-point conversion, the Indians sealed the edge — Acosta going in untouched.

With 49 seconds remaining in the first half, the Indians led 21-0.

Deferring the coin toss to the second-half kick paid dividends immediately.

After initially dropping the ball, senior Nick Kinder recovered and broke a tackle — the sideline opening up near the Elko bench.

With Elko coach Luke Sellers yelling at to Kinder to “sprint,” he was off to the races — outrunning the defense for a 95-yard touchdown.

Zeller’s PAT was true, giving Elko a 28-0 advantage.

Starting its next possession from the 21, LCI gained consecutive big runs from Evans — breaking from the pocket for 18 yards and 15 yards.

Senior receiver Cade Francis hauled in an Evans pass at the Elko 32, but the Rams were called for a huge penalty as Evans scrambled — going all the way back to their own 41.

The Indians gave back a large chunk of the 36 yards to the line to gain with a hit out of bounds, but an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-14 set up 4th-and-long.

LCI left the offense on the field, and Acosta broke through the line and forced a fumble — Shurtz pouncing on the loose ball.

Elko gave the ball right back.

With a botched exchange on a snap, LCI made a recovery of its own — the rock winding up in the hands of Procee.

Evans ran for nine yards to the Indians’ 36 and set up 3rd-and-1, but Acosta tripped up a ball carrier behind the line of the scrimmage and forced 4th-and-short.

The pigskin must have been greased, as the Rams’ coughed up the football for the second straight drive — Elko junior linebacker Darin Legrand making the recovery.

Elko turned the takeaway into points.

After a 20-yard run by Acosta was cut in half by a holding call, a false start walked Elko back across midfield.

The entire LCI defensive front broke through the line for a loss of two yards, but Acosta moved the Indians to the positive side of the 50 with a 12-yard carry to the Rams’ 43.

On his first carry of the sequence, Cervantes went for five yards to the 38 — his next attempt going to the house — taking another carry off the right guard and cutting back across the grain for a 38-yard dagger.

Following Zeller’s kick, the Indians grabbed a 35-0 lead with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter.

Stanko returned Elko’s kick for about 30 yards to the 41, and Evans packed the ball around the left side on a read option for 14 yards to the Elko 45.

However, the turnover bug bit the Rams once again — the Indians converging on a bubble screen to start the fourth quarter — junior defensive Shawn Sessions dislodging the football, junior David Heard scooping up the recovery.

Elko pulled its starters and played the fourth quarter with its reserves, punting the ball after going three-and-out.

Zeller’s kick traveled to the LCI 12, the Rams starting their most-successful drive of the night.

Stanko ran a counter back to the left to the 36-yard line for a gain of 24, Francis caught a short pass to the right and broke several tackles for seven yards and Stanko moved the ball across midfield to the Elko 36 with some tough running up the middle.

He continued to pack the Rams and push the Indians on the next-two rushes, moving the ball to the Elko 4 before being injured.

LCI followed with its only points of the game, Francis taking a sweep to the right for a touchdown at the corner.

The extra point was missed with 2:21 remaining in the game.

Elko junior Brayden Barnhurst returned the ensuing kick to the 28, and the Indians picked up a first down with a four-yard run by Kinder and an eight-yard carry by Heard.

The Indians ran out the clock on the ground — rolling to a 35-6 victory — Elko forcing six turnovers; three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Cervantes led Elko with 116 rushing yards on 12 carries, scoring a 38-yard touchdown.

Acosta carried five times for 71 yards with a TD, Ratliff taking his only attempt for a 14-yard touchdown.

Johnson took his interception 68 yards for a touchdown, Elko’s other TD coming on Kinder’s 95-yard kick return.

Stanko paced the Rams with 126 rushing yards on 17 carries, Evans rushing for 54 yards on 15 attempts.

Through the air, Evans completed 6-for-19 for 52 yards with three INTs.

Francis scored LCI’s lone touchdown on a four-yard carry, leading the Rams with three catches for 16 yards.

Defensively, the Indians were paced by five tackles apiece from Acosta and Legrand — Acosta forcing a fumble and Legrand recovering one — Acosta making two tackles for losses and a sack, Legrand adding a sack of his own.

Johnson, Zeller and Ratliff each picked off a pass — Shurtz, Legrand and Heard each recovering a fumble to round out Elko’s takeaways.

Credited with forced fumbles for Elko were Acosta and Sessions.

LCI’s defense was led by four tackles each from Thomson — who also forced a fumble — senior Joel Pollock and sophomore Crew Hirsche.

Scott and Procee each recovered a fumble for the Rams.

*Editor’s Note

Thank you to LCI head coach Darren Majeran, his staff, the players and their parents for making the 862-yard trip and for providing a friendly, high-energy football game.

Good luck to the Rams for the rest of their season.

Up Next

The Indians (2-0 overall, 1-0 in league) will return to Division 3A North play against North Valleys (0-2 overall, 0-1 in league) at 7 p.m. Friday, at Warrior Field.

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