It only gets harder for Elk Grove High School from here. But the Thundering Herd looks better still than it did just two weeks ago, when it opened the rugged Delta League with a tough victory at Davis.
Elk Grove (5-1 overall, 3-0 Delta League) ran all of 24 offensive plays Friday night but averaged 16 yards per play in exploding to a 62-21 victory over visiting Pleasant Grove (4-2, 1-2).
Quarterback Carter Harris ran and ran and ran for 188 yards in all of six carries. He started with a 72-yard run on the Herd’s first possession and scored on runs of 2, 64 and 48 yards.
“He’s starting to pay more attention to details, coach John Heffernan said of Harris’ 72-yard ramble. “He made a great read, pulled the ball, and he exploded.”
“I’m just following our blockers,” the 5-foot-6, 155-pound senior said of linemen Elijah Vallier, Jesse Hughes, Jacob Hudson, Jack Spithorst and Kylan Fontes. “We keep working during the week. We’ve been playing together a long time. We hopped on this train, and we’re letting it roll and roll. We’re trying to get better each week.”
Elk Grove needs to. Next for the Herd is Jesuit, followed by Franklin and Cosumnes Oaks.
And the Herd is getting there. Elk Grove scored twice in 40 seconds to start the second half, as Khalani Riddick returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, followed by Ethan Archuleta’s recovery of a blocked punt in the end zone, turning a 34-21 halftime lead into a running clock. Riddick had a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified in the first quarter.
Heffernan said Elk Grove includes starters and “quasi-starters” on its special teams.
“We make it a priority,” he said. “We make it a big deal.”
Pleasant Grove made this game a big deal by scoring first, turning a fumble recovery on an Elk Grove punt return into Jacob Couchot’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Trey Kennedy. Couchot, starting for the injured Nathan Valencia, then threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Kevin Watt with 9.1 seconds left in the first quarter, and Karson Wheeler’s 1-yard touchdown run tied the score midway through the second period.
But Elk Grove always answered – fast. Pleasant Grove ran the first 16 offensive plays of the game, and its third scoring drive took another 16 plays and 80 yards. The Herd’s touchdown drives took four, one, one, three, seven, four and five plays.
The seven-play march, a marathon on this night, ended with Tre’von Frazier’s 25-yard touchdown that gave Elk Grove a 34-21 halftime lead.
And this might be a first: The Herd had a touchdown – ahem – drive that chunked up a whole one-tenth of a second. With the clock stopped with 0:00.1 left in the first quarter, Hunter Hall took a sweep 75 yards along the Pleasant Grove sideline.
Hall also scored Elk Grove’s previous touchdown on a 58-yard bobble, catch and run over the middle that appeared on television highlight shows late Friday night.