Elkhorn won the fight for field position on a windy, raw Thursday night, and its execution did the rest for a 15-7 football win over Elkhorn South.
The Class B No. 9 Antlers (6-3) scored on a pair of short-field touchdowns in the second quarter and notched a safety in the final quarter.
The win improved Elkhorn's position in the Class B playoff field. No. 10 Elkhorn South (5-4) would have secured a playoff spot with a win in the televised game, but now needs a win from Beatrice, Alliance, Aurora, Valentine or Columbus to qualify.
Elkhorn South converted Elkhorn's only turnover of the game — an interception by the Storm's Jake Nelson early in the second quarter — into its only touchdown. Zach Zelasko scored from the 5.
A muffed punt that Elkhorn recovered at the Storm 7 was quickly turned into a 4-yard touchdown run by Tanner Bailey for the first points allowed in the second quarter all season by the Storm. Colin Stiles' extra point tied the game with 6:02 left in the half.
After forcing a three-and-out, Elkhorn got the ball at the Storm 42 following a 17-yard punt into the wind. A 19-yard catch by Chris Weber came on a third-and-9 and Jake Hasty's 1-yard touchdown came on fourth down with 36 seconds left for a 13-7 halftime lead.
“They did an excellent job of converting a lot of third and fourth downs and an excellent job of playing downhill football,” first-year Storm coach Guy Rosenberg said. “When we had our opportunities we weren't as efficient or productive as we needed to be.”
Elkhorn elected to kick off into the wind to start the second half, saving the wind advantage — the north gale that was gusting to 40 mph also created sheets of a steady mist on a 43-degree night — for the final quarter.
The Storm had overcome a holding penalty in getting to a second-and-1 from the Elkhorn 35. But the next snap went over the head of 6-foot-5 quarterback Ben Green, who chased down the ball for a 21-yard loss. When the Storm punted, it couldn't get to the ball before it rolled into the end zone for a touchback.
Elkhorn, as it did in the first quarter, sustained a long drive into the wind. While the seven-minute possession only got the Antlers to the Storm 40 before coming up inches short on a fourth-and-3, it left South with only 46 more seconds with the wind.
Another execution error — a false start on first down — forced the Storm to try two passes before calling a running play and a timeout to punt with the breeze.
Elkhorn's punt coverage in the fourth quarter pinned the Storm at its 1 — leading to the safety on third down — and then the 10 and 5 to hamper the Storm's comeback attempt.
Elkhorn (6-3)............................0 13 0 2—15
At Elkhorn South (5-4)...........0 7 0 0— 7
ES: Zach Zelasko 5 run (Brandon Roarty kick)
E: Tanner Bailey 4 run (Colin Stiles kick)
E: Jake Hasty 1 run (kick failed)
E: Safety, Zelasko tackled in end zone
>> RUSHING: E, Bailey 16-48, Hasty 21-80, Bryan McLaughlin 9-14, Ben Hass 7-10, Stiles 1-minus 2, team 2-minus 2. ES, Zelasko 12-55, Cole Carlton 6-16, Ben Green 6-10, Keaton Suey 1-3, team 1-minus 21.
>> PASSING: E, Hass 2-4-1 27. ES, Green 5-15-0 39.
>> RECEIVING: E, Chris Weber 2-27. ES, Jay Landholm 3-34, Zelasko 1-2, Steve Worthing 1-3,