by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Mitch Beaudry was one lineman the Star News wanted to chat with, following Elk River’s 35-22 win over Buffalo in which the line kicked butt for the sixth straight week.
For one thing, Beaudry has played for a conference championship team before, in wrestling, in 10th grade. The Elks have a chance to share the football title if they can upset the Rogers Royals next week.
For another, he’s one of the blockers helping Moses Saygbe become the Elks’ first 1,000-yard rusher since another guy named Beaudry did it in 2001. Chase Beaudry had 1,023 that year before going on to play for St. John’s.
“I know who he is, but I don’t know him that well,” said Beaudry, explaining that Chase is a “second or third cousin.”
The 5-foot-8, 210-pound Beaudry is obviously pleased that the “hogs” have helped the Elks rise from last year’s 0-9 ordeal, and several years of futility before that. The Elks are averaging 283 rushing yards per game to become a conference contender, under new head coach Steve Hamilton and otherwise pretty much the same staff that Mike Cross had.
Asked why things are going so well, Beaudry assessed: “The coaches push us hard blocking, and about what schemes work better … It’s mostly the little things, like your steps, and staying low, and driving hard.”
Any particular plays that work the best?
“All the plays work pretty well,” he said, “but the one Moses gets, the 40 trap, that one works well a LOT.”
Saygbe has scored 14 touchdowns, many of them on long runs.
Beaudry was poker-faced and polite during the brief interview but broke into a big smile when asked if it was fun to be winning again, like in wrestling. “Yes, it sure is,” he said.
Really kicking in
Another element of the Elks working well is the kicking game with sophomore Austin Larson. He was successful on an onside kick and then a 35-yard field goal at Buffalo.
The Elks are an amazing 4-for-5 on Larson’s onside kicks this year and he’s 2-for-2 on field goals, the other one a 27-yard game-winner at Moorhead. (He has no extra-points because the run-happy Elks always go for two, and have made 19 of 30).
Larson’s onsider in the first quarter at Buffalo was not the typical squibber or bouncer; this one was lofted over the up-men like nine-iron shot and recovered by Nate Storby.
“It might seem like that’s a happy accident, but we work with Austin a lot about targeting spots to kick the ball,” said Chad Baldwin, special teams coach, “and he has been putting them where he needs to. We use him to kick to every angle we can. He is a special kicker.”
Larson’s field goal attempt was from the left hash mark with a strong crosswind, but had plenty to spare.
“We had him kicking into a tough wind in practice, and he could kick one from 50 yards,” said Baldwin.
The Elks unveiled a new weapon at Buffalo. Somebody wearing No. 34 who wasn’t on the program carried five times for 38 yards (by the Star News unofficial stats) in the second half. The reporter/photographer asked assistant coach Aaron Osterman, who coaches the sophomores and was charting the game on the sideline, who No. 34 is.
“That’s MY fullback, Michael Larkin,” said Osterman. “He’ll be the (varsity) fullback next year.”
Osterman is happy to share Larkin with the varsity but needs him for a big game next week. Read on.
Get there early
Next week will bring what should be, by far, the high point of the intra-District 728 sports rivalry in the nine years since the district split into three, considering what’s at stake, and how the Elks have improved since last year when Rogers won the first-ever gridiron meeting 55-0. The varsity football showdown at Jerry Schempf Field will draw an immense crowd.
And both football programs are also excited about Thursday when unbeaten Elk and Royal sophomore and freshmen teams will clash.
Only third 1,000-yarder
Saygbe became the first Elk to gain 1,000 yards since Chase Beaudry rolled up 1,020 yards in 2001. The team record is 1,655 yards by Jeff Hawkins in 1973, according to a book on a century of Elk football composed by former Elk quarterback Jon McLean. Unless there were other long-ago thousand-yarders whose stats were either not kept or have disappeared, those are the only three Elks in the club.