Elks defeat Vikings 23-8 during homecoming game on Friday
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
After a 4-0 start to the 2017 varsity football season, the Grayling Vikings have now lost three consecutive games – including Friday night’s 23-8 homecoming loss vs. the Elk Rapids Elks – and Grayling needs to win its final two regular season contests in order to earn an automatic playoff berth.
On Friday night, the Vikings hosted the Elks. Elk Rapids went three and out on the first possession of the game, punting on 4th and 4.
Grayling started its first series at its 20-yard line. On 1st and 10, quarterback Justin Nicholas hit Rickey Heavner on a deep route for an 80-yard touchdown. Zack Osga ran the ball across the goal line for the two-point conversion.
The Vikings led 8-0 early in the first period.
Elk Rapids punted on 4th and 3 and Grayling started at its 24-yard line after the kick. A reception by Gabe Ervin and runs by Osga and Nicholas picked up a first down. Two passes to Logan Joseph gained 35 yards. A catch by Heavner and runs by Nicholas and Osga gained enough for another first down. Later, incomplete passes on 3rd and 10 and 4th and 10 ended the drive on downs.
Elk Rapids drove 80 yards on nine plays – including a 15-yard pass and a 29-yard pass – and the Elks finished the series with a three-yard TD pass on 4th and goal. They kicked the extra point.
With 38 seconds left in the first quarter, the Vikings led 8-7.
On 3rd and 12 for Grayling – the ninth play of the possession – the Vikings completed a pass but the receiver fumbled and Elk Rapids recovered the ball.
On 4th and 5, Elk Rapids completed a pass on a fake punt play. The Elks got to Grayling’s six-yard line, and they kicked a field goal on 4th and 5. Elk Rapids led 10-8.
The kickoff resulted in a touchback, giving Grayling the ball at its 20-yard line. A pass from Nicholas to Parker Dole gained 16 yards. Receptions by Joseph and Heavner picked up 11 yards and another first down. Penalties (holding, block in the back) nullified gains for the Vikings. A catch by Joseph, plus a face mask penalty on Elk Rapids, gave Grayling a first down. The Vikings lost yardage on a sack and a penalty (illegal shift). On 4th and 11, an incomplete pass ended the drive.
The Elks punted on 4th and 11, giving Grayling the ball at its 10-yard line with 1:31 left in the second quarter.
Passes to Osga and Joseph picked up a first down. A catch by Leland Hunter gained 17 yards. Ken Dutton caught a pass for a five-yard gain. On 3rd and 5, a QB sack ended up being the final play of the first half.
At halftime, the score was Elk Rapids 10, Grayling 8.
The first three possessions of the second half – two for Grayling, one for Elk Rapids – ended with a punts.
A holding penalty nullified a 19-yard TD run for the Elks. Later in the series, on 4th and 16, Elk Rapids tried for a field goal; the kick was wide right and short, no good.
With five minutes left in the third period, the score was still 10-8.
Grayling punted on 4th and 3, and Elk Rapids started 45 yards from the goal line.
The Elks scored on a 16-yard TD run. Grayling blocked the extra point kick attempt.
With 2:25 left in the third period, Elk Rapids led 16-8.
Another touchback on the kickoff. Grayling started at its 20-yard line.
A personal foul penalty on Elk Rapids gave the Vikings 15 yards and a first down. Nicholas threw to Heavner for a 16-yard gain. Passes to Heavner and Joseph gained enough for another first down. A sack and two penalties (false start, delay of game) moved the Vikings back, and they punted on 4th and 27.
Elk Rapids drove 81 yards on 13 plays, scoring on a nine-yard TD run on 2nd and goal. The series consumed almost seven minutes of clock time. The Elks kicked the extra point.
With 5:25 left in regulation, Elk Rapids led 23-8.
After the kickoff return, Grayling started at its 14-yard line. On 1st and 15 following a penalty (false start), a roughing the passer penalty on Elk Rapids gave the Vikings a first down; Nicholas left the field after the hit. On the next play, Elk Rapids intercepted a Grayling pass attempt and returned it for a touchdown, but a block in the back penalty nullified the TD. The Elks had possession at Grayling’s 14-yard line with 5:04 left in the game.
The Vikings kept the Elks out of the end zone, and Elk Rapids tried a field goal on 4th and 3; the kick went wide left.
Grayling took over at its 20-yard line with 3:26 remaining in regulation.
Nicholas, back at QB, threw to Dutton for an 11-yard gain. Grayling lost 15 yards on a personal foul penalty. Another roughing the passer penalty on Elk Rapids gave the Vikings a first down. Heavner caught a pass for 15 yards. Nicholas threw to Joseph for eight yards. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Elk Rapids gave the Vikings 15 yards and a first down.
A toss to Osga and a pass to Joseph gained enough for another first down. An incomplete pass and two catches for short gains brought up 4th and 4. An incomplete pass on the next play ended the drive.
Elk Rapids killed the last 20 seconds of regulation, and the Elks won by a final score of 23-8. The win clinched a playoff berth for the Elks, improving their season record to 6-1 (4-1 conference).
Nicholas finished with 391 passing yards and one TD. Joseph had 169 receiving yards. Heavner had 145 receiving yards and one TD.
The Vikings (4-3 overall, 2-3 league) will play at Benzie Central (1-6 overall, 0-5 league) at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13.