Posted On: 11/3/18 6:06 AM

For nearly two quarters the Sauk Rapids-Rice Storm were hanging with the heavily favored Elk River Elks in the Section 6AAAAA finals. With Elk River leading 20-14, the Storm was on the move with less than two minutes remaining in the half. Facing a second down and five inside the thirty-yard line, Elk River corner Bobby Heinzen picked off a pass into the flat and returned it nearly 50-yards. One play later running back Adam Nelson took the handoff from the 27-yard line, and the Elks were back in the end zone. They would take a 28-14 lead into the half.
“That was a big play for Bobby,” Elk River head coach Steve Hamilton said. “He was not a starter at the beginning of the year and had not played varsity until this year, and he made a great play. We feel like if we get up a couple of scores, we think we are in pretty good shape.”
With momentum on their side coming out of the locker room, the Elks essentially put the game away after they received the second half kickoff. They held the ball for over seven minutes, and Nelson scored a touchdown to move the lead to 36-14.
The Elks would essentially be on cruise control the rest of the night. They advanced to the AAAAA state tournament with a 52-28 victory.
Trailing 6-0, the Elks would score on their first three offensive possessions. On their third play from scrimmage, Carter Otto scored on a 25-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion would give the Elks an 8-6 lead.
They would get the ball back after forcing a Storm punt and would need only two plays to score their second touchdown of the game. Otto would score his second touchdown of the game, and with the failed two-point play, they led 14-6.
With the score tied at 14, Nelson and Otto worked behind an offensive line that was steadily gaining steam. Nelson finished off the drive by making two quick cuts to free himself for a touchdown and a 20-14 lead. The Elks would not look back.
The Heinzen interception, the Nelson touchdown and the out of the locker room touchdown drive took away any stress the Elk River fans might have had.
“Our defense has gotten better and better,” Hamilton said. “I know people think that defense is our weakness, but they are peaking at the right time.”
After another touchdown run by Otto, the Elk’s defense held up again. Sauk Rapids tried a deep ball down the sidelines, but cornerback Zach Stroh had better position and hauled in the interception.
Deep in the Storm’s territory, the Elks wore out the front seven of the Storm. Tight end Lorser Wuanti, tackle Lafayette Bade, guard Elijah Bicek, center Cody Newhouse and guard Jacob Ballenger – coming across the formation with trap blocks – took over the game. They would put together a 94-yard touchdown drive to take a 55-22 lead.
The Elks are known for their sleight of hand in the backfield. Sometimes it is nearly impossible – for observers or defenses – to find the ball. They didn’t do nearly as much of that as when I have seen them play in the past, but they didn’t need the sleight of hand Friday night.
“Physically we dominated up front,” Hamilton said. “We just kind of went off tackle and told our guys we are going to wear them out and that is kind of what we did.”
“We were physical all night long,” Bade said. “We didn’t stop, and we didn’t quit. We did what we had to do until the end.”
The Elks’ 55-28 win sent them to the state quarterfinals where they will play Spring Lake Park.