HOWARD — After being a dominant force over the past several years, the West Elk Patriots have hit a bit of a snag in pursuit of another playoff appearance in 2018.

WEHS suffered a third straight loss on Sept. 21 as it dropped a hard-fought 44-36 decision to Central-Burden in the Eight Man I-District 1 opener at Pat Simmons Stadium.

“This was a great football game,” said West Elk coach Chris Haag. “I’m so proud of our guys for the way they fought in this game. Hats off to coach (Anthony) Blair and Central. They came out and deserved this win. The fans for both sides definitely got their money’s worth. We are upset about the loss, but I’m definitely proud of the way our kids play. We need to improve more, but we continue to make strides each week.”

The Patriots suffered their first loss to Central-Burden since a 50-0 decision in Howard during the 2012 campaign — snapping a string of five consecutive victories in the series. West Elk continued its recent struggles as it suffered a third straight loss to fall to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in district play. It is the first three-game losing streak for the Patriots since 2012.

WEHS will cap off a three-game homestand when it entertains Oswego in its annual homecoming game. The Indians — 3-1 overall and 0-1 in district play — are coming off their first loss of the season in a heartbreaking 38-34 home loss to Sedan last week.

West Elk and Central played even throughout much of the game, but it was the third quarter that would eventually decide the final outcome. With the teams tied at 22-all, WEHS grabbed the lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tim Whetstone to Nic Moreno. Whetstone then found Codie Cannon for the conversion and a 30-22 Patriot edge.

Central came back with consecutive scoring possessions. Clayton Cook ran into the end zone from 11 yards out, and Tanner Groene ran in the conversion to tie things up. Later in the period, quarterback Jacob Haws found Lane Toon for a 46-yard touchdown pass and then hooked up with Cook on the conversion for a 38-30 Raider lead after three quarters of play.

In the fourth quarter, the Patriots narrowed the gap on a 38-yard strike from Whetstone to Moreno, but the conversion failed to leave the margin at two. That’s where things stood until Groene ran into the end zone from 14 yards out to extend the margin. CHS had a chance to make it a two-possession game but failed on the conversion.

That gave West Elk one last chance to get even down the stretch. Yet, the Patriots tossed an interception. The Raiders would chew up yardage, getting all the way down to the WEHS five-yard line in the final minute before running out the remaining clock to secure the win.

Earlier in the contest, WEHS struck first on a two-yard TD run by William Silvey. Moreno ran in the conversion for an 8-0 lead. Back came Central as Cook scored his first touchdown on a four-yard run. Groene added the conversion run to even things up at 8-all after one quarter.

The teams exchanged scoring punches before halftime. Cook ran in his second score on a 10-yard run, but the Patriots reclaimed the advantage at 16-14 following Silvey’s 17-yard TD pass to Cannon, and Moreno’s conversion run. Haws and Toon hooked up for a 47-yard scoring strike for the Raiders, with Haws then finding Cook for the conversion. But West Elk eventually tied things up heading into the intermission on Moreno’s 57-yard run for six.

Central finished the game with a 420-346 edge in total yards. West Elk, which finished with 269 rushing yards, was led by Moreno with 22 carries for 210 yards. He was also the team’s top receiver with two catches for 55 yards.

(Photo by Lynne Miller)

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