HOWARD — A year ago, West Elk and St. Paul finished as the top two teams in district play, with the Patriots getting the upperhand during their regular-season matchup. Although they aren’t in the same district this season, the teams had another battle on their hands in week three of the 2018 campaign.

The visiting Indians had a six-point lead at the intermission but ran off 38 unanswered points to blow things open for a 54-24 victory over the Patriots last Friday at Pat Simmons Stadium.

Since opening the season with a home loss to Sedan, St. Paul has won back-to-back games to move to 2-1 overall on the season. The Indians, who finished as the Eight Man I state runner-up a year ago, will open up District 1 action in Eight Man-Division II on Friday at home against Colony-Crest. The Lancers are currently 0-3 following last week’s 66-0 loss at Shawnee Maranatha.

West Elk, which was coming off a 10-1 campaign a year ago, dropped to 1-2 overall this season. A week earlier, West Elk had a string of 13 consecutive wins in regular-season play come to an end. Now WEHS has lost back-to-back games for the first time since late in the 2014 season when it fell to Cedar Vale/Dexter and Udall in consecutive weeks.

“We obviously don’t like to lose,” said Patriot coach Chris Haag, whose squad will open Eight Man I-District 1 competition Friday at home against 1-2 Central of Burden. “That being said, I’m very proud of the boys for the way they played. Sure you would much rather be 3-0 right now, but our first three games have prepared us for what’s ahead here in district play. There is definitely a motivational factor for this week and the final five weeks of the regular season. We still have a target on our back, though, so we have to come out ready to play.”

The first half was a battle from the kickoff with the teams exchanging scoring punches. Adam Albertini put the Indians on the board with an eight-yard run and the conversion pass to Kenny Haney. Yet, Nic Moreno tied things up for the Patriots as he went into the end zone from three yards out and added the conversion run for an 8-8 score after one quarter.

Albertini scored his second touchdown on a five-yard run and then added the conversion. West Elk returned the favor, though, as Moreno scrambled 47 yards and also ran in the conversion to even the score at 16-all.

St. Paul eventually took the lead for good just before halftime on Collin Carlson’s two-yard run for a 22-16 edge at the break.

That was the start of 38 unanswered points by the Indians, with Albertini leading the charge. Albertini scored on runs of 11, two and 50 yards, while also tossing a 19-yard scoring strike to Haney. St. Paul led by as many as 38 at 54-16 until Moreno’s 25-yard run in the fourth quarter narrowed the final margin.

The Patriots had no answer for Albertini, who carried the ball 23 times for 228 yards and five touchdowns. As a team, the Indians finished the game with 348 rushing yards and 368 overall.

West Elk had 251 total yards in the contest, including 226 on the ground. Leading the way was Moreno with 25 attempts for 178 yards and three scores.

(Photo by Lynne Miller)

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