There weren’t as many points scored as a year ago, but it’s safe to say the Elk River-Buffalo showdown still lived up to the hype. In another back-and-forth battle, the Elks proved victorious yet again, outlasting the Bison by a score of 46-37.
Like last year’s 80-70 Elk River victory — the highest scoring game in state history — it was a battle of opposites, as star senior quarterback Aidan Bouman lit up the Elks for 385 yards and five touchdowns through the air while Elk River stuck to their bread and butter, rushing for 571 yards and six touchdowns, including a team-high 329 yards and four touchdowns by senior running back Joe Nordstrom.
Nordstrom’s longest run of the game came late in the first quarter, scampering 80 yards to the end zone and putting the Elks up 16-7 after Dylan Ball recorded the first score of the game on an 18-yard run earlier in the quarter. Bouman responded to the long Nordstrom run with a 34-yard touchdown strike to Trevor Johnson — his second touchdown of the game after a 6-yard score late in the first quarter — to put the Bison within a point after a successful 2-point conversion with 10:34 to go in the half.
The score would remain 16-15 going into halftime, as the Elks went on a 9-minute drive but failed to score, turning the ball over on downs at the Bison 5-yard line.
With the ball to start the second half, Nordstrom broke free once again, completing a 4-play, 84-yard touchdown drive with a 79-yard score. Nordstrom added a 34-yard touchdown run on Elk River’s next possession followed by a 48-yard touchdown run by Rahim Avery on their third possession of the half. Yet, the Bison responded each time, as Bouman hit Michael Tweten with touchdown passes of 10, 60 and 50 yards, respectively, to make it a 39-37 Elks lead after three. Tweten finished with a game-high 201 receiving yards on nine catches.
In the fourth, Nordstrom completed his four-touchdown night, scoring from 6 yards out with 9:56 to go in the game. Sophomore kicker Rylen Keoraj proceeded to convert his second extra point attempt of the game, giving the Elks a two-possession lead.
Buffalo looked poised to respond again, but despite driving into the red zone, they got backed up by two penalties and Bouman couldn’t complete a couple heaves into the end zone, resulting in a turnover on downs with just over five minutes to go. The last attempt — coming on 4th and 17 from the Elks 22-yard line — was knocked down by senior corner Bobby Heinzen, who led the Elks with four pass deflections. Elk River went on to run out the clock on their final possession of the game, sealing the 46-37 victory and improving to 2-0 on the season.
Offensive Star of the Game
This one is a no-brainer, as senior captain Joe Nordstrom carried the load in the backfield with 329 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Of his 329 yards, 194 came on three scoring plays, taking the ball into the end zone from 80, 79 and 34 yards out. Already, Nordstrom has five touchdowns of 30-plus yards on the season, including three from at least 75 yards. He also leads the team with 475 yards on 29 carries this season, which also is second-best in the state.
Defensive Star of the Game
Against a pass-happy team with arguably the best quarterback in the state, the Elks definitely had their fair share of defensive lapses in the backfield, but their most consistent performer was senior corner Bobby Heinzen, who led the team with four pass deflections. His best play of the game came on the Bison’s last possession, deflecting a pass to the end zone on a 4th and 17 play to effectively seal the game for the Elks.
Elk River headed back home to take on St. Francis (1-1) on Sept. 13. Last year, the Elks defeated St. Francis 35-22, rushing for 444 yards in the game including 184 and 145 by Kevin Egbujor and Adam Nelson, respectively.
The Elks head back on the road to play Andover (0-2) on Sept. 20. They survived a late Huskies comeback last year in Andover, winning by a score of 28-26. Elk River used the play-action pass to their advantage in the game, as quarterback Tyler Leshovsky hit Logan Enkhaus with two touchdown passes for 73 total yards. Carter Otto added 65 rushing yards and a touchdown.