By Jonathan Deal
A few plays into the second half of Friday’s rivalry game between West Limestone and Elkmont, it was clear the last team with the ball would win the game.
West Limestone’s players scraped and clawed for four quarters to make sure they were the ones holding onto that ball when the clock hit zero.
A back-and-forth game with four lead changes in the second half saw the Wildcats emerge 25-23 victors over Elkmont in a nonregion game at James Kennemer Stadium.
“It was score after score and big plays,” West Limestone head coach David Arnsparger said. “It really ended up being whoever had the ball last was going to win and that’s kind of what happened to us.”
Trailing 23-19 mid way through the fourth quarter, Logan Pugh gave West the go ahead touchdown on a 42-yard touchdown after Elkmont had just stopped the Wildcats on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line.
West Limestone’s defense tightened up to force an interception on Elkmont’s final drive. The turnover nearly gave Elkmont a gift on the fourth down play, however, when the ball was fumbled after the interception and the visitors nearly recovered past the first down marker.
Just as they had all game, the Wildcats fought at the bottom of the pile to emerge with the ball and ran out the clock for the win.
“We learned a lot about ourselves tonight,” said Arnsparger. “We played a good football team. I think this a defining moment. We won a close game and that’s big. To be able to come out with a win where it was back-and-forth. That was a great job by our players tonight.”
West Limestone’s defensive stop in the final minutes followed a third quarter scoring spree from both teams. Trailing 13-10 at halftime, Elkmont put together a seven play 64 yard drive, capped by a Jared Bailey 1-yard plunge.
Elkmont’s first lead of the game didn’t last long as West answered with a 63 yard drive of its own. Tucker McCormick’s 13 yard run put the home team back in the lead 19-17. McCormick carried the load on the scoring drive that included seven runs, mostly up the gut of the Red Devils defense.
Not to be outdone, Elkmont’s Mike Tucker ripped off a 65-yard run on the next play from scrimmage and scored from two yards out on the next play to regain the lead with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Tucker led Elkmont with 12 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown. Dillon Miller led the way for West Limestone with 13 carries for 118 yards and touchdown. McCormick added 113 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown.
Miller’s second quarter touchdown gave Elkmont a 13-3 lead early in the second quarter when it looked like the Wildcats might run away with the game.
A creative blend of playcalling that included reverse passes and a fake punt ensured Elkmont stayed in the game until its ground game took over in the third quarter.
Elkmont’s ground game racked up 206 yards while West Limestone rushed for 316 as a team.
Elkmont had three players throw passes, most by Jordan Bailey who completed 4 of 11 pass attempts for 96 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rhett Bailey caught two passes for 75 yards and one touchdown.
West Limestone quarterback Drew Blakely was an efficient 3 for 4 for 39 yards. The Junior opened the scoring on a 5-yard naked bootleg on the Wildcats opening drive.
West Limestone (3-2, 1-2) host Wilson for an important 4A Region 8 contest next week. Elkmont (2-3, 1-2) face a third consecutive road game at No.1 ranked Madison Academy.
Other scores from around Limestone County:
East Limestone 59, James Clemens 42
Athens 26, Austin 24
Ardmore 56, Clements 30
Tanner 42, R.A. Hubbard 6