EAGAR — Coach Brad Baca was feeling grateful his Round Valley football team managed to play a game Friday after that night’s scheduled game at Blue Ridge had been canceled.
First, so that his players were not idling around in the middle of the season and could continue their undefeated season.
Secondly, although the Elks had little trouble against visiting Estrella Foothills in a 51-7 victory and everyone on the team had plenty of playing time, the hastily scheduled game provided Baca and his staff a glimpse at the kind of offense they will encounter this Friday against Snowflake.
Standout running back Seth Wiltbank scored three touchdowns in the first 13 minutes of the game against the Wolves of the 4A Conference, the first and third on passes from quarterback Ryker Marble and the second on a dodging 35-yard run, to set the 3A second-ranked Elks well on their way to their eighth straight win.
A potential ninth straight win this week against Snowflake in the Round Valley Dome will be more of a challenge for the Elks. The 7-1 Lobos are ranked fourth in the 3A and are coming off a 55-0 home win over Winslow and have scored at least 50 points in three straight games.
“The good thing about this,” Baca said after the win over Estrella Foothills, “is we don’t see a lot of teams that throw, that line up in a spread (offense) and throw a lot. It was good to see this because Snowflake does a lot of throwing and teams farther down the road in 3A, a lot of these teams like to spread it out and throw so this is a good learning experience for us.”
The defending state champion Lobos no doubt will be remembering last year’s visit to the Dome when they lost 37-29 for their only defeat in 2020.
“Snowflake’s very athletic. They’re big, tough kids — just like us,” Baca said. “Everyone on the mountain is tough so we know that’s coming. A lot of what we’ve seen is they execute very well. They wouldn’t have won state last year if they couldn’t, if they weren’t well coached, all those things. We know it’s a huge task for us, but this is why we play football. This is why we’re here. This is what we get excited for. I think everyone, every kid, coach, is excited for these kinds of games. We’ll be ready to go.”
Last Friday the Elks were supposed to travel to Blue Ridge, but that game was canceled by Blue Ridge after a few Yellowjackets players had tested positive for COVID-19. The Elks quickly filled the open date with Estrella Foothills.
“We found out Monday so practice was a little weird,” Baca said. “The rest of the week was pretty normal for us because we knew we were playing. Our kids were ready to go. It didn’t really mess us up that much. Thanks to Blue Ridge for letting us know on Monday instead of waiting until Thursday to tell us so we were happy for that.”
So when the Wolves arrived in Eagar to play Friday all systems were go, especially for the senior Wiltbank, who caught his first TD pass for 45 yards on the third play of the game after the Elks received the opening kickoff. He followed that with a 35-yard scoring run, and on the Elks’ third possession hauled in a 33-yard pass at 11:09 of the second quarter for a 21-0 Round Valley lead.
“He’s a lot of why we are successful,” Baca said. “He’s amazing. I’m happy he’s been with us. He’s fun to watch.”