BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Perhaps no high school, college or NFL head coach other than late Miami Dolphins legend Don Shula will go as far to say his team his having a perfect season.
But Elkins head coach Zach Watson will at least admit the Elks (11-0) have had a special one so far as they prepare to host Monticello (8-3) Friday night at 7 p.m. in a Class 4A second round playoff clash.
Elkins, who has won 21 of its last 22 games over the past two seasons, is averaging 54.5 points per game this season, has pitched three shutouts in its last four games and is also getting great efforts from its special teams.
The result is a season in which the Elks have outscored their foes 599-91 while piling up over 50 points in eight contests, over 60 in a trio of games and a high of 73 in a win over Green Forest.
“It has really, really gone well for us,” Watson said. “I think that is a tribute to our senior leadership. They have done a good job and we do have quite a few seniors that play and it’s a senior-laden team.
“They have done a really good job of getting our young kids to buy in, to focus and stay in week in and week out and it has really propelled us in all three facets of game.”
The Elks would obviously love to finish unblemished as the Dolphins’ 17-0 World Championship team did in 1972.
They certainly have a chance with players like quarterback Slade “Dizzy” Dean and tailback Da’Shawn Chairs.
Dean (6-2, 190) is 162 of 208 passing for 2,229 yards and 29 touchdowns while Chairs (5-8, 190) has rushed 113 times for 1,181 yards and 28 touchdowns.
To do that, they’ll need to first take care of Monticello team that has won seven of its last eight games. The only loss was a 41-21 loss to Warren.
“They present some challenges for us,” Watson said. “It is by far the most athletic team that we have played all year. They have got three receivers on offense that when the ball gets in their hands, they can take it to the house at any moment.”
Elkins lowest margin of victory this season is 21 points in a 41-20 win over Gravette and thus there has not been a ton of adversity to face.
“There’s no doubt,” Watson said. “At times we have had adversity throughout the year, really early on against Gravette. There was a little bit of adversity there in that game before we broke it loose.
“So there has been a little bit, but maybe not as much maybe as I would have liked just because I want to see how our kids respond and I would know how they would be in that moments here coming up here in the playoffs.
“But our guys have done a good job in practice when we are putting those guys in situations and they have done good job of responding.”
There certainly was adversity to end last season with Nashville downing host Elkins 63-62 on a Hail Mary touchdown pass in the final seconds of a quarterfinal round game.
“What we got into last year with Nashville, we learned a lot from that as a young group and that game really propelled us into how we are playing now,” Watson said.
“We had to make some adjustments and we learned a lot from that game. I know the players did, but also the coaching staff and I learned a lot.”
Elkins could have home field advantage to the championship game in Little Rock expect for one ironic exception.
“It just depends, if CAC wins and we win, the we would go to CAC, but if CAC gets upset then whoever upsets them would come to us,” Watson said. “I believe they play Nashville again so it could set up another match up with Nashville at our place.”
Elkins has rallied around its football team.
“It has been unbelievable support from day one since I got here at Elkins,” Watson said. “They do a great job on Friday nights and the stands are always packed.”
Photo courtesy of Elkins athletics