by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Determined not to brighten an opponent’s homecoming for the second straight week, the Elk River Elks repelled the Buffalo Bison 35-22 on Friday evening — and set up a huge home game next week.
The Elks (5-1) stampeded for 356 yards, all on the ground, with Moses Saygbe piling up 185 of them, scoring three touchdowns and surging past the 1,000-yard marker.
A week ago, the Elks had a 48-20 lead at Becker’s homecoming but got scorched by the Bulldogs air game in the last 15 minutes and shockingly lost 49-48.
“We were pretty upset the whole week,” said offensive guard Mitch Beaudry, “but we used it as motivation to work a lot harder and make sure it didn’t happen again. We finished it off this time.”
At Buffalo’s homecoming, the Elks barged to a quick 19-0 lead in the first quarter but got chewed up for a while in the second quarter as the Bison rallied within 19-16.
But the Elks had an answer this time as they drove 60 yards late in the half with Sayge bolting 20, 14 and then the final 15 for the score. Up 27-16 at the break, the Elks maintained control in the second half.
“It was another typical Elk River game — we score a lot, and then they score a lot. We are very entertaining,” quipped Elk River coach Steve Hamilton. “I don’t know why more people don’t come watch wherever we play. But our defense really stepped it up in the second half this time.”
The Elks (5-1) will host the Rogers Royals (6-0) next Friday with the league crown on the line. A Rogers victory would clinch an outright championship even with one week remaining, while the Elks can tie for first place with a victory.
“Obviously that is a huge game for the kids and the communities, going against players you’ve grown up with,” said Hamilton. “That should be a game they remember the rest of their lives.”
Saygbe, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior in his first year carrying the ball for the Elks, carried 24 times for 185 yards (Star News unofficial stats) and now has 1,023 yards. He’s the first thousand-yarder for the Elks since 2001.
Dylan Chambers added 68 yards on 15 carries, with a three-yard TD plus three runs for two-point conversions. The Elks also unveiled up-and-coming sophomore Michael Larkin in the second half, as he rolled up 38 yards in five carries.
Saygbe’s 35-yard burst up the middle capped the Elks first drive. Buffalo then tried a fake punt on 4th-and-three and the Elks stuffed the run to take over at the Bison 34, leading to a three-yard TD run by Chambers.
Then the magic foot of Austin Larson started and ended a scoring drive. He pooched the kickoff over the Bison up-men and Nate Storby dived on the ball at the Bison 33. The Elks got one first down before sending Larson back out for a 35-yard field goal attempt, into a stiff crosswind from the left hash mark. The 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore drilled it through with 20 yards to spare.
Buffalo showed some homecoming spirit in the second quarter, getting a couple big runs from Colton Haight, who racked up 118 yards in 16 carries.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior powered 45 yards to set up Jake Rohlin’s 11-yard scoring run, and 27 yards to set up a short TD pass from Jason Stenger to Austin Youngs. The Bison made both two-pointers and trailed by just three.
“Buffalo played hard and we played hard,” said Hamilton. “We got up 19-0 and they came back and made a good game of it, but our kids fought back. The kids are still in the learning process, trying to make adjustments.”
Saygbe zigzagged for an 11-yard TD run in the third quarter, shedding tacklers on the way, for a 35-22 lead.
Another Elk drive ended at the Bison 10 in the third quarter when quarterback Cory Collins fumbled on a roll-out, and the Bison took to the air to drive 90 yards, capped by Stenger’s eight-yard run, early in the fourth quarter.
Elk River 35, Buffalo 22
Elk River …….. 19 8 8 0 — 35
Buffalo …………. 0 16 0 6 — 22
ER — Moses Saygbe 35 run (Dylan Chambers run)
ER — Chambers 3 run (Corey Collins run)
ER — Austin Larson 35 field goal
Buf — Jake Rohlin 11 run (Connor Martin run)
Buf — Austin Youngs 3 pass from Jason Stenger (Rohlin run)
ER — Saygbe 15 run (Chambers run)
ER– Saygbe 11 run (Chambers run)
Buf — Stenger 8 run (run failed)
Rushing — Elks 60-356, Buffalo 31-181
Passing — Elks 0-0-0, Buffalo 4-10-52
Penalties — Elks 3-25, Buffalo 4-18
Turnovers — Elks 1, Buffalo 0
Rushing — Saygbe 24-185, Chambers 15-68, Michael Larkin 5-38, Jordan Johnson 4-31, Collins 9-25, Larson 2-8, Nathan Cundiff 1-4
Passing — none
Rushing — Colton Haight 16-118, Stenger 5-46, Martin 2-13, Rohlin 3-4, Jared Wycoff 5-1
Passing — Stenger 4-10-52-0
Receiving — Dan Butler 2-39
Fumble recovery — Andrew Iverson
MISSISSIPPI 8 CONFERENCE
Rogers ……………………….. 4-0 6-0
Elk River …………………….. 4-1 5-1
Monticello …………………… 3-2 4-2
St. Michael-Albertville ……. 3-2 4-2
Becker ………………………… 2-2 4-2
Buffalo ………………………… 2-4 2-4
Big Lake ……………………… 1-4 2-4
Cambridge-Isanti …………..0-4 0-6
Rogers 35, Big Lake 8
Elk River 35, Buffalo 22
St. Michael-Albertville 14, Cambridge-Isanti 0
Monticello 42, Becker 7
Games next Friday
Rogers at Elk River
Monticello at St. Michael-Albertville
Alexandria at Buffalo
Becker at Cambridge-Isanti
Milaca at Big Lake